I heart coffee

There are a number of coffee shops and stands around Olympia and I have resolved to try as many as possible on my 365-day discovery of Olympia. I decided to start my coffee stand exploration with the neighborhood coffee stand, Steamboat Island Coffee. I was not disappointed! In fact, I wish we had stopped there sooner It has two drive-up windows which honestly is an amazing design for a drive-up place. We walked up because we had Mr. Barky with us. The guys working were super nice. I got a very good American and my better half got a chai. They even gave us a dog cookie for Mr. Barky. (He liked it very much and he is picky about treats.) Something for everyone!!

Location: 3403 Steamboat Island Road Northwest, Olympia, WA 98502

Hours: 6 am – 6 pm, Monday-Friday, 7 am – 6 pm on Saturday and 7 am – 4 pm on Sunday.

Love,
Oly


Today’s weather: No rain! Highs in the 50s. It’s 56°F at about 4 pm. G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S!

Our state flag

One of the things that surprised me when I moved to Washington was that all of the road signs that had George Washington’s likeness on them. I guess I should not have been surprised since the state is named in honor of our popular first president, George Washington.

One of my regular readers asked me to do a post about the state flag and I learned a few interesting tidbits. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)

Washington became the 42nd state in 1889, but the flag was not adopted until 1923. The Washington chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution designed the first flag and pushed for its adoption. It has changed a bit over the years to standardize the colors and there was an update of the seal in the late 1960s.

It’s the only green state flag in the United States (but, hey–we are the Evergreen State) and the only one to depict a U.S. president. This depiction is also Washington’s state seal.

 

Yummy food ahead

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I love Vietnamese food. When I was a student at ASU, there was a great little place near campus. I could have eaten there every day. So I was happy to try Da Nang Restaurant on 4th Avenue in downtown Olympia. They have an extensive vegetarian menu and can make things vegan. We had a hum bao appetizer, a steamed bun that was fluffy white and filled with vegetables and tofu. I have never had this type of dumpling before–it was very good.

We shared the Tofu Phở and the Mock Chicken Stir Fry with Ginger. Everything was very fresh and the stirfry was flavorful without being heavy. I love Phở and am always excited to find a vegetarian version. As leftovers the next day, everything was just as good.

The fortune cookies, sadly, are not vegetarian but we enjoyed the fortunes nonetheless.

Good service and fast, nice interior. About $16.00 per person + tip. We are definitely going to be repeat customers.

Address: 116 4th Ave E, Olympia, WA 98501, (360) 534-9200

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 am-11 pm, Sunday Noon-10pm (always a good idea to call to confirm hours)

Ăn ngon miệng nhé!

Love,
Oly

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Today’s weather: Might have been wishful thinking but it felt like spring today. Temps in the 50s again and no rain. It was great. 🙂

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More on Habits and Rituals

I just finished the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book features the work habits of over 150 artists, writers, composers, musicians and poets. The common thread throughout the book is the ritual of going to work as an artist. Many of the people featured in the book had a very set schedule and many were absolutely dedicated to the schedule. There are always outliers of course but I was more fascinated by the people who held rather traditional 9-5 jobs and found time to do their art and writing.

Something that I learned from both my Learning How to Learn class and Productivity Hacks for Writers is that you really do need to rely on habit (AKA  your zombie brain). We have limited stores of willpower and will quickly run through it if that’s the only tool in the toolkit. Habit, on the other hand, becomes more automatic. After taking the productivity hacks class, my latest habit has been to get up every morning at 4:30 am and write. And amazingly, I have kept this up for weeks now. Even more amazing – I even look forward to it. I have blogged every day in 2018  for my Olympia blog. So now I am on the lookout for anything that helps harness the power of habit to get things done. (My other early morning habits are meditating, gratitude journaling and unloading the dishwasher and the drying rack. On even days, I add a workout to the routine.) Believe me when I tell you that it’s easier to do things every day or on a regular schedule.

Last week I read a post on cleaning your house in 20 minutes a day in the Apartment Therapy blog (which I love and recommend: no apartment required). And you guessed it: it relies on habit, making cleaning an everyday habit. But before you get the wrong idea, it’s not a clean your house in 30 days and never have to do it again recipe. Instead, it’s a habit-forming plan to make cleaning an everyday thing so that it doesn’t pile up or leave you with a full Saturday of housecleaning chores. The post includes a 30-day checklist of chores and we started it on February 1. (I know, I know, that’s funny.) So far, so good. It’s easy to do and it makes a difference.

A little nature therapy

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We visited the Yashiro Japanese Garden in Olympia this week. The garden was completed in 1990 as a joint project of the Olympia-Yashiro Sister City Association and the City of Olympia. It’s one of the many parks and trails maintained by the City of Olympia. It’s just under three-quarters of an acre tucked in beside the Olympia Municipal Court on Plum Street in downtown Olympia. We’ve driven past it several times and we finally arranged a time to stop and check it out.

Even in early February, the park was quite beautiful and the hellebores were in bloom! Actually, a number of plants had buds and I felt like we were standing at the edge of early spring. The park is a small but tranquil oasis.

The park was designed by Robert Murase, a landscape architect. Born in San Francisco in 1938, Murase was a third-generation American of Japanese descent. When he was just three years old, his family was imprisoned in an internment camp during World War II. After his family’s release at the end of the war, they returned to San Francisco. Murase later earned a landscape architecture degree from UC Berkeley. Murase furthered his study at Kyoto University in Japan.  When Murase passed away in 2005 his colleague John Nesholm called him a “poet of stone and water.”

Learn more about the sister city association. This website also lists volunteer opportunities for those interested in helping to maintain the park. (I thought the origins of the modern sister city concept was interesting.)

Location: 1010 Plum Street SE
Admission is free, hours are dawn to dusk. Download a park brochure and map.

Nature = joy. Get outside!

Love,
Oly

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Today’s Weather: What a difference 5-10 degrees makes! It’s drizzly today but not cold. Makes me happy. 50°F for the morning dogwalk! 52 at about noon.

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Get thee to the Farmers Market!

Farmers Market

It’s Groundhog Day (Marmota monax) and you may be wondering if there are any groundhogs in Washington. From this range map it looks like we might have some in the upper northeast corner of the state but none in the Olympia area. And yes, Punxsutawney Phil saw his dreaded shadow so 6 more weeks of winter according to lore. Yay. I am going to don my “Wake me when winter is over” hoodie and grumble a little today.

Where were we? Ah, yes! The Olympia Farmers Market. If you ask anyone in Olympia about places to go here, they will mention the Farmers Market.

The Farmer’s Market is a large indoor/outdoor market that is going into its 43rd year. There are farm vendors, artisan foods, crafts and entertainment. The website has a lot of information about the vendors and you get a good idea of the breadth of offerings. It’s huge and it may take you a couple of times through to see everything. It’s a great place to walk through and you will certainly find something to delight you.

My favorite thing from the Farmers Market so far is the Kiwi Berries. I had visions of putting them on salads but I think we just ate them all right out of the container.

And if your brother wants you to pick up some apples, better get some details because the number of varieties is a tiny bit overwhelming in the fine state of Washington. 🙂

Located at 700 Capitol Way N in downtown Olympia. (360) 352-9096

Hours: Open every Saturday through March, 10 am-3 pm and then Thursday-Sunday, 10 am – 3 pm, April to October. There’s plenty of parking. Don’t forget to visit the demonstration garden on the east end of the market.

Spring is coming — it might just be taking the scenic route.

Love,
Oly


Today’s weather: more rain: surprise, surprise. But! It cleared up in the afternoon with temps over 50. Woohoo!


A special shoutout for Groundhog Day (affiliate link). Buy the movie and resolve to make a fresh start every day, even when it feels like the same thing over and over again.

Uprising!

Seed shopping

My Uprising Seeds catalog came in the mail yesterday. I didn’t know it was possible to be in love with a seed catalog — until now. Uprising Seeds is locally owned and operated in nearby Bellingham, Washington. One of the things that I don’t think I fully appreciated until I became dependent on open source software is the importance of open source anything, and that includes seeds. Open pollinated seeds contribute to plant diversity by encouraging seed saving and sharing. I never get tired of hearing the backstory on a seed’s origin. In the U.S. where most of us shop at grocery stores, it’s easy to believe that what’s in the grocery store is it, when in fact there is an unbelievable array of vegetables and fruits from all over the world. A lot of what is grown for the mass market is grown because it keeps well, ships easily, produces standard-sized fruit, etc. — not because it’s necessarily the best-tasting variety.

I already knew that I was missing out if I was only eating (or trying to grow) the standard American cucumber. But I didn’t know about Le Puy lentils. Then I read the entry for the Le Puy lentils in the Uprising Seed Catalog.

It is indeed true that these were not grown in Le Puy en Velay, France where they have been grown for over 2,000 years. They were grown here people, which means you too can grow them! (You cannot hear this but I am shouting with excitement!)  Sown a bit earlier in the Spring and harvested several weeks earlier than our earliest dry bean, these began as an experiment and ended as an incredibly beautiful seed crop. A seed crop we are having a hard time not eating because we grew lentils!! Low growing (to perhaps 1’) slender plants with seed pods encasing 1-2 beans. Speckled blue/green little lentils which readily soak up all matter of deliciousness you may throw at them. Rich, nutty, and eminently satisfying.”

Now I have to grow lentils! I have no idea what that entails. And threshing? Never done it–it sounds painful doesn’t it? But I am going to use my grit and give it a try.

I am also going to try watermelon this year. Again, their ode to seeded watermelon made me question why seedless watermelon is so popular. Are watermelon seeds really that much of an inconvenience? Have we lost all sense of fun? So I am going to grow seeded watermelon, spit my seeds and revel in it. You should, too.

Uprising Seeds is online but there’s nothing better than the feel of a seed catalog in your hands.

Ready, set, grow! Spring is coming!

Love,
Oly


Today’s weather: Rain, rain and more rain. When you have to change your clothes after a dog walk, that’s when you know it’s really coming down. About 44°F at 6 p.m.

Get ready to start those seedlings

Light stand with seedling tray

January is the time for many gardeners to get excited and start planning their gardens. If you live in Phoenix, the timing is a little different: those tomato plants need to be started right around Christmas Day. In my maritime northwest garden in Olympia, I have to sit on my hands a bit and wait to start seeds until the end of January and into February.

BUT–I can be prepared.

Yesterday, I pulled out my seed tray and my light stand. I purchased the light stand a couple of years ago and it was still new in the package. It’s a Jump Start two-foot grow light. I am happy to report that even after a couple of moves, it’s in good shape and I am really happy with it. It’s just the right size for a flat of seedlings. The stand uses a pully system to raise and lower the light so the light can be adjusted to be close to the seedlings.  I am using a flat that holds 72 peat pellets. I like peat pellets because they are easy and easy to transplant without too much overhandling of delicate seedlings. Plus, if you have things ready before others, you can just swap the seedling for a new pellet. I placed my light stand in the guest room where it’s relatively warm and there’s plenty of light thanks to a large skylight. I am planning to add a heating mat, too. And I set up a timer for the light.

This year, I am also going to try some DIY newspaper pots for squash. You can plant squash seeds directly in the ground and in some cases, that’s probably better, but starting the seeds ahead helps me to be able to see the plants and I do a little better with spacing. Everyone is different so remember that you can adjust methods to suit your style and still be very successful. The best methods are always the ones that work for you.

I made a list of what I want to grow. I have five garden beds in my fenced-in garden area.

  • Tomatoes (two varieties)
  • Sweet Peppers (two varieties including one named after me! more on that later)
  • Yellow squash
  • Delicata squash and another winter squash
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant (mini)
  • Cucumbers
  • Snap peas
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Scallions
  • Leeks
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Melons (two varieties)
  • Ground cherries
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kale assortment
  • Salad greens

I decided to order most of my seeds from Oregon-based Adaptive Seeds. They sell Pacific Northwest grown, open-pollinated organic seeds. I really enjoyed reading through all of the varieties and selecting new things to try. There is a lot more plant diversity out there than you would realize from a stroll through a typical grocery store produce section. It’s worth repeating that varieties grown for mass marketing are rarely the best tasting varieties. An interesting tidbit that I will share from my Reno garden and Phoenix garden: northwest seed varieties often do well in both Phoenix and Reno. I think that’s because they are short season gardens. Particularly with tomatoes, you need a short season variety that will tolerate cooler temps if you want to harvest tomatoes in either Phoenix or Reno.

I have some leftover miscellaneous seeds and they are all going to be used. Not sure that I can hope for great germination but I also know that they will never grow if I don’t plant them. I might have a happy surprise.

Spring is coming!

Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide

My copy of the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide arrived today. This is the go-to guide for planning your garden in Olympia and other nearby locales. You can order a copy from Seattle Tilth for $22.00 including postage and it may be the best $22 that you spend on the garden.

January is planning time for gardeners. This is when you get out your seed catalogs, draw a diagram of your garden and make your plans. I like the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide because it has a month by month calendar of things to do, things to plan inside and out, garden chores and more. It also has a very useful and easy to understand crop rotation guide. Finally! I can see clearly what I need to do.

In my yard, I contend with some hungry critters: slugs, rabbits and deer. My garden area is thankfully fenced off so it’s just me and the slugs. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I don’t kill slugs. My husband loves them, I think they are his totem animal. And I have to say that I think they are pretty darn cool. I have no problem relocating them and I don’t mind doing the copper collars around my plants along with other methods to discourage them from eating certain plants. However, I don’t mind if they eat dog poop. They are a fairly good clean-up crew. So we coexist. I might get grumpy later but for now, it’s Kumbaya.

When I moved in, I had a couple of large piles of miscellaneous bricks and granite pieces. Last fall, I put them together to build additional raised beds. Next step is to fill them with garden soil and get ready for planting. I also have a small light stand for seed starting. I just need to order seeds and get to work!

What are you planting this year?


This post first appeared on love-oly.com

Seed Starting for a New Garden

We went to a Seed Starting Meetup hosted by South Sound Vegans and Living Green in Olympia. Meetup is an online community/app that helps you to create and make connections IRL with people who share the same interests: gaming, cooking, hiking, politics — you name it–there’s probably a Meetup group for it.

I’ve been lurking in the Meetup world for about six months. I know, I know, I am slow to take the plunge. And then there was a Meetup on seed starting. If you dangle anything plant or garden-related in front of me you are likely to get my full attention.

We met at Encore Chocolates and Teas, 116 5th Ave SE · Olympia, WA.

Wow–so much tea. This is the place to go for tea! I tried the jasmine tea and it was fantastic. I’ll definitely be going back. How did I get out of there without trying the chocolates? I have no idea.  I think I was distracted by the gardening talk. Now you know my priorities!

Anna talked about a wide range of topics related to seed starting and has a new blog dedicated to South Sound gardening called Edible or Else.

Some things that I learned:

  • Anna offered a better explanation of hardening off that I have learned elsewhere: that is, making a slow transition to the outside for seedlings started inside.
  • Keeping seeds cool: I knew that they should be dry–did not make the cool connection.
  • If you have moved around, you know that getting the inside scope on the local growing environment makes all the difference, so I was happy to learn about Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide. You can order a copy for $22.00 including postage and it may be the best $22 that you spend on the garden,

Buying good quality seeds means that the seeds are what they say they are, have been stored properly and are robust enough to sprout. Finding varieties that work well in your area is key. Sometimes, that means letting go of a variety that you grew up with (I’m looking at you Beefsteak tomato) in favor of varieties that match the length and temperature ranges of your growing season. Seed catalogs we learned about:

Another catalog I’ve used is Oregon-based Territorial Seeds for short season, cool temps-tolerant tomato varieties.

In addition to Edible or Else, check out the Northwest Edible Life blog, in particular, the monthly gardening guides.

I am new to gardening in the Pacific Northwest gardening but I am not new to gardening or short-season gardening or cool-season gardening. There are a lot of parallels to gardening in the low desert of Arizona and in Northern Nevada. A lot of people don’t realize that you can’t garden in the summer in Arizona. If you want to grow tomatoes in Arizona, you have to start your seeds in December for a February planting and then it’s a race against the calendar to get your crop before temps go well above 100. Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson was a go-to resource when I lived in Arizona and there’s some overlap in the cool season growing advice. Native Seeds is a nonprofit seed conservation group focusing on Native American seed preservation. Check out this article on cool-season growing. I like their BRAG memory device for cool season growing: Brassicas, Roots, Alliums and Greens. If you want to get started with seed saving, their article on seed saving is a good place to start. This is all to say that even if you are new to the area, you might know more than you think.

I am pretty excited about gardening this year and will share I’ll be keeping a garden journal on Instagram @LetsKeepGrowing. If you are a gardener, you know that January is when all of the seed catalogs come out. If you are new to gardening, it’s time to sign up for those catalogs. Get excited, people! Spring is coming.

Let’s get growing!


This post originally appeared on love-oly.com