See the Andrew Wyeth Exhibit at SAM!

Experiencing the Andrew Wyeth in Retrospect exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum is a day well spent, especially on a rainy Seattle Sunday.  Room after room filled with amazing art.  Damn.  I’m in such awe of this artistic talent.

When my antique phone couldn’t download the app for the SAM audio tour, I forked over $4 to rent the old school technology wand to listen to the audio tour.  How embarrassing!

Quite the scoundrel, Wyeth painted up until his death at age 91, sneaking away starting at age 53 to secretly paint a neighbor’s caregiver, Helga, in the nude during a 15 year period without telling his wife.  Oops.  Of course, this was after he had started doing other nudes in a dramatic pivot to erotic art and his wife, Betsy, had told him, “If you do this again, don’t tell me.”  So, he didn’t share and painted nude Helga privately while also cranking out landscapes that he DID show his wife.  Hmmm….

 

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Wyeth’s muse, Helga

 

I appreciate the audio tour interpretation of the paintings because I gaze upon them and think simplistically, “pretty picture” when I should be seeing all kinds of imagery and subtexts telling me about the meaning of life.  Nope.  Not unless I’m told by the kindly intelligent audio guide do I see the “death as a subtext” message and “sex as a rebirth” theme.  I’m an idiot but I do enjoy viewing art as did the huge crowd packing the museum today.

One masterpiece did speak to me, after the audio guide explained that “Snow Hill” was a memorial piece created in 1989 and dedicated to his models, both living and dead, symbolizing renewal and reevaluation of life’s purpose.  The models dancing around the May Pole was quite evocative.  Well done, Wyeth.

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Snow Hill symbolizing renewal

Wyeth painted in tempura and watercolor and pencil sketches.  The attention to detail was incredible especially the blades of grass in the landscapes.  His dad was a famous illustrator who taught him starting at 15 years old.  Wyeth sold out his first NYC show at the ripe old age of 22 and continued to paint until he died in 2018.  He is known for his realism.

 

“I search for the realness, the real feeling of a subject, all the texture around it…I always want to see the third dimension of something…I want to come alive with the object.”              -Andrew Wyeth

The exhibit will be at the SAM until January 15, 2018.  In addition to the paintings and sketches, the SAM has done a nice job incorporating videos about Wyeth’s life and an interactive area with touch screen devices where you can create your own art.  I highly recommend it.  Enjoy!

Foy Vance takes the stage

Foy Vance is a brilliant artist.  His vocals soar and lyrics inspire.  Moving from piano to ukulele to guitar, Foy without a band at The Triple Door was a totally different experience than when we last saw him at the Columbia City Theater.  Less rocking and more talking.  He opened the show with Free Falling, a Tom Petty tune, and finished with a haunting Irish song in acapella.  Awesome.

A Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter, he was signed to Glassnote Records in 2013 and has been touring non-stop.  The Triple Door gig was his next to last U.S. stop before a well-deserved break to go home.

Clink, Clink, Clink.  W.T.F.  Foy was not amused.  Clearly used to playing larger venues opening for artists like Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Josh Groban, you could tell it was painful for him to sing and endure the irritating noise from the audience dining.  “Are you still on the first course?  Entrée? Dessert?”  Will it never end?  Clink, Clink, Clink.

Inspiring singalongs on a few songs, the sold out crowd knew the words and didn’t want to stop being Foy’s back-ups.  When one patron yelled out “More”, Foy let him know that he was not a “fecking jukebox” and that was that.

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I do love The Triple Door because the seats are comfy and they pour an amazing strong and plentiful Old Fashioned.  However, the crowd can be noisy when enjoying their food and tend to chat as most tables seat 4-6 and encourage groups.  Of course, we were at one of the counter tops and the guy next to us thought we had paid to hear HIM sing not Foy.  Wrong!  I quietly protested by covering my ear closest to him with my middle finger to block out his musical stylings.  I wonder if he saw or cared.  Probably not but it made me feel better.

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Next time Foy needs to share his artistry at The Moore or The Paramount.  No delicious shrimp noodles but better acoustics and focus on the really important thing.  His gorgeous voice and storytelling.  Until next time, Foy, cheers!

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Blade Runner 2049 & Biscuit Bitch-A Perfectly Seattle Combo

How do you top seeing Blade Runner 2049 on a 70mm wide screen on opening weekend?  Well, after this dazzling movie you hop on over a few blocks after the flick and hit up Biscuit Bitch for an AMAZING basket of bliss.  Damn. Perfect. Saturday.

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First, Seattle Cinerama (owned by Paul Allen) is THE best place to see movies, possessing surround sound, comfy seats and a 70MM wide screen.  Seating 500+ on opening weekend, the chocolate popcorn and alcohol were flowing as the sold out 11 a.m. crowd buzzed with excitement pre-movie in the lobby.  It’s highly unusual for crowds these days not to look incessantly at their phones during a film or get up to go for bathroom/food runs but nobody moved the whole 160 minutes of this flick, glued to their seats not knowing what the hell was coming next.  A retro Merry Melodies cartoon featuring Michigan J. Frog  amused the 20-something and predominantly  male audience after the previews.  They probably had never seen such a thing before in their young lives.

Not to stereotype male Seattle tech nerds but this movie seemed to be squarely made for their lane with lots of naked females, high tech everything and violence galore.  Still, amazingly, I enjoyed it though it was definitely NOT in my normal preferred genre of light comedy, but even I could respect the complexity of this flick.  And Ryan Gosling’s adorableness.  Just saying, he is too CUTE and boy can he kick ass!

No spoilers but let’s just say the whiskey-loving dog got a good laugh and Harrison Ford still rocks.  How is it Harrison has gotten older and yet I never age?  Hmmm…   Ryan Gosling played his complex character well and if this film doesn’t win all the lighting awards, I would be surprised.  Stunning.  This future world was just harsh in all aspects and, while the women dominated the power roles, they were seriously evil bitches and this civilization had a whole lot of prostitutes and gigantic naked holograms.  No one needs to see ta ta’s that large looming over them or is just me?  Disturbing.   Prior to Trump, I couldn’t imagine such a bleak world but unfortunately now I can.  With just one tweet, we too could be looking at forgotten cities condemned forever after being nuked.  While not an uplifting film, it was well done.  Go see it!  While we’re all still alive.

So after contemplating a world where the rain never stops and there are no trees or flowers, what’s a girl to do?  Hit up some biscuits, bitch!  Starting out small and now with 3 locations in Seattle, Biscuit Bitch was just as good as the reviews make it out to be.

Luckily, the Belltown location didn’t have a line by the time we dropped by, close to their 3 p.m. closing after our movie, so we walked right up and got us a “Hot Mess Bitch” meal to share.  Cradled in a paper boat, the layers of biscuit, gravy, cheese, eggs over easy, garlic grits, grilled Louisiana hot link and jalapenos were plenty big enough for 2 to split for $11.70.  Holy Smokes!  It was hot and messy and DELICIOUS.  Their motto is “trailer park to table” and they keep the menu simple and focused on biscuits.  Smart.

Love their smiling staff, the cool tunes being played, bitchin’ logo and the upbeat décor.    I’ll be back.  Hope everyone’s Saturday was just as fun as ours has been.  Now, it’s time for Seahawks football!

 

Japan to Italy in One Seattle Morning

On a sunny fall Seattle morning, it was time to visit different cultures without leaving downtown.  Thom and I love to experience new places so, from Japan to Italy, we decided to get out and savor the warm weekend weather.  Time to explore!

First stop-Seattle Japanese Gardens in the Madison Park neighborhood is a 3.5 mile oasis of tranquil ponds and flowering trees.  Now, parking is scarce especially as the garden parking lot sits next to soccer fields filled on a Saturday morning with cheering/jeering parents coaching their little ones on ferociously.  Be quiet, Mom and Dad, and let the tykes play.

After driving by and circling back with no spot in the lot, we just parked on Madison St. and walked down.  For only $6 per head, you can achieve zen and see some very hungry koi.  Bring your camera as everywhere you look is an Instagram moment.  They have a teahouse where you can buy tickets for an authentic Japanese tea, which I’ll have to try sometime.  Winding through waterfalls, streams and bridges over the ponds, I was so happy to see lots of turtles (I have a fascination with these ancient creatures) sunning themselves on the plentiful rocks in the pond.  The koi were colorful and hungry, being fed by the small children visiting the gardens.  A few of these koi may want to consider eating less carbs and swimming a few more laps around the pond-they were HUGE!

After wandering back by the soccer fields (we can’t wait until Mia starts playing!), we enjoyed putting the top down on Sexy Beast and driving back home to check out the Festa Italiana Seattle at the Seattle Center.  Oh my holy Hell those meatballs were delish and I rarely eat meat.  I didn’t even take a pic of them because I ate them so fast.  Swimming in lots of spicy sauce, my “tub of meatballs” went down quickly-tub being an overstatement as there were only five so I refused to share with Thom.  Waddling down to the exhibits where they had music, dancing, a wine garden and lots of vendors, we quickly sought out the Borracchini Bakery table and purchased cannoli’s, biscotti and other treats to take home to enjoy later.  When in Italy and all.  To be honest, they didn’t last long after we got home so I just might have to visit the Festa Italiana again tomorrow for another bakery run.  So. Good.

In another building, there was a fierce bocci tournament going on.  Such a game of finesse.  A show with elaborate puppets for the kids was enchanting and well attended.  The festival also showcased Italian dogs, Cirneco dell-Etna, small, wiry and high-strung Sicilian hound that hunts rabbits, as well as cute Vespas and classy Maserati cars.  Oh those Italians know how to live!

I love living in Seattle and going from zen to festa in a matter of minutes.  I’ll never take living here for granted.  Now it’s time to lift a glass of vino to toast the start of another great Seattle weekend.  Cheers!

Boise Bday Booze Tour

What could be better than spending quality time with my lovely daughter Hannah exploring Boise’s best bars and sipping tasty cocktails?  Maybe adding in some tasty nibbles along the way so that we can sample more spirits?  Having Thom as our designated driver? What a perfect afternoon!

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Hannah knows her momma well and surprised me with a thoughtful birthday present that we could enjoy together.  After your kids grow up and leave the nest, you quickly find out that any time you are able to be together is precious and to be savored like a fine wine or aged whiskey.  Luckily, she gets me and gave me not only time with her but tasty hooch.  LOVE. THIS. GIRL

Her birthday card made me cry and I am not a crier like Thom-just saying.  “You are the absolute best mom and Nai Nai!”  Nothing beats that.  Ever.  I’m going to laminate this card and pull it out every time I’m having a challenging day.  “Let’s go scout some bars & restaurants so you can have some new fave places when you live here full time.”  She wants to spend time with her momma?  Be still my heart.  I’m not sure when we’ll be able to make that dream of living in Boise full time real but I’m working on it.

So, off we went this past week on the Boise Booze + Bites Happy Hour Tour hosted by Indulge Boise Food Tours.  I like their tag line, “Eat Well.  Indulge Often.”  Okay, I can embrace that wisdom.  Our friendly tour guide, Lauren, told us about their company which started in 2016 when the owner decided to get off the corporate track working for the WNBA and settled back in her hometown of Boise.  Thom and I have taken advantage of walking tours and cooking classes all over the world in our travels.  Not only do you meet cool people but you learn stuff too.  We like them.

On this tour, I learned all about my daughter’s first drinking escapade (at a much younger age than previously disclosed), her favorite booze (beer-New Belgium Rogue) and her favorite food (Thai or sushi).  Lauren prompted discussion at every venue we visited with probing conversation-starting questions.  Even with family members, this can be fun and eye opening.  Hannah’s choice of the one place she would live if she could?  DC.  She spent a summer interning for Congressman Minnick while she was in college and it was political heaven for her even with multiple roommates (including cockroaches).  Me-NYC.  No place like it in the world.  Fav meal and drink for me? I would choose a Caprese Salad  with a nice Cab.

We explored new places like Flatbread Neapolitan Pizza tucked away on the second floor in an office building overlooking the downtown core.  I would probably never have gone to this place but the flatbread, washed down with a tart Raspberry Lemon Drop, was delicious so we’ll be back.  Hannah’s drinks during our tour had a summer garden theme either by accident or design:  Sage Cucumber at Flatbread and Lemongrass Sage with a Lemongrass straw at Press & Pony.

Mai Tai’s house cocktail, Mai Thai Old Way with dark rum, rhum agricole, dry curacao, orgeat, fresh line and mint, was a refreshing way to wash down some veggie spring rolls.  The atmosphere here is beautiful with overhead glass sculptures and water features.  Lauren said their Happy Hour is legendary and embraced by Boise locals.  I’ve had lunch there before but was impressed with their Happy Hour cocktail list, which I hope to sample in the future.

Now, I have started my own “Best of Boise Old Fashioned” contest to justify my tasting of the classic cocktail wherever we go.  So, I sampled The Mode and Press & Pony on this tour.  No contest.   Press & Pony, an intimate speakeasy with serious bartenders, won by a large margin.  The Mode’s Old Fashioned was okay but lacked the nuances of the one at Press & Pony.  There, Eric took my challenge seriously and laid down a cocktail I could enjoy with my Boise Fry Co. veggie burger (black bean and quinoa) and red potato fries.

Indulge Boise offer several types of tours:  Historic Downtown Boise Food & Cultural Tour, Capital City Sunday Brunch and private tours.  Check them out here if you are visiting Boise or are a local who just wants to have fun.  Cheers!

 

Balloons Invade Boise!

Hot-air balloons are truly a majestic sight.  Doesn’t mean I want to jump in and share a tiny basket with blasts of propane gas hurtling me through the skies but the balloons do photograph well and I appreciate them.  From a distance.  From the ground.

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Filling the blue skies as a colorful hurrah to the last days of summer, dozens of rainbow globes rose quickly.  Only Mia could get Thom out of bed and in the car before he had his first cup of coffee at 7ish on a Sunday morning.  For me, no way.  The last day of the Spirit of Boise balloon classic created a sense of urgency to get our lazy asses up and moving to see the awe on our granddaughter’s 3-year old face.  Was it worth it?  Certainly.  For her, anything.

For five days over Labor Day weekend, this annual event delights those who trek to Ann Morrison Park to get up close and personal each morning.  If you are not an early riser, you miss them as they take off at around 7 a.m.  We actually braved the crowds and shortage of parking on Friday evening to catch the Night Glow Spectacular where some of the balloons light up and stay tethered after dusk but left after we saw the humongous crowd and realized we were unprepared without chairs to gaze at the spectacle.  Next year, we will know better and come early in the evening with wine, munchies and blankets to recline on to enjoy the show.

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The festival even has a kids day one morning, allowing children to take a short flight in a tethered balloon and pose for photos inside a balloon basket.  Since Hannah probably won’t allow Mia to ever go up into the skies in a balloon (wise momma) this will be the only way for her to experience it.  I can’t say that I blame Hannah.  Thom and I flew the Arizona skies as one of the experiences on a business trip I won and it was f*&king terrifying.  Packed into the basket with other company folks, we quickly saw that the driver couldn’t exactly control where we went or how we landed, which was HARD in a random field.  The basket carrying us tipped on its side quickly, dragging us through the field with one poor woman screaming as her hair got stuck between the basket and the ground.  Yep, she lost part of her ponytail.  I just screamed in general but without any painful hair extraction.  No more ballooning for me.  Thom loved it.  Freak.

But, back to Boise.  The Spirit of Boise is a wonderful crowd pleaser for all of Boise to enjoy and all activities are free and painless.  While parking is limited, it’s an easy stroll from downtown where you can find plentiful parking.  Bring your camera!  Thom left his good one back in Seattle and was kicking himself.  Next year!  Boise typically is hot as hell and dry this time of year, allowing the balloons the perfect weather to fire up and have fun.

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With balloons inflating all around us, Mia didn’t know which way to look next.  In addition to the beautiful rainbow colors, there were specialty ones like Darth Vader, Yoda, Liberty Bell and Owl.  Several companies proudly displayed their logos-happy use of marketing dollars seen by thousands of local residents.   Walking back to the car after taking in the sights, we were thankful that we made the effort to get up early and enjoy the Spirit of Boise.  Can’t wait until next year to make this a family tradition!

 

Top 10 Tips for Airbnb Hosts

Does the lure of extra money tempt you to rent out an extra bedroom or your vacation home?  Sounds good but if you decide to profit by sharing your personal space with complete strangers, use these tips from my experience as an Airbnb host to make it a successful experience.

The last three years we have rented out our second home, a cute 1912 cottage in Boise, Idaho when we aren’t using it.  As an Airbnb host, there are definitely great moments when that rent money is deposited into your account or guests rave about your property but temper those delightful moments with the calls at midnight when the renter is drunk and lost their key or when the lovely 2 person renter in reality turns out to be a raucous house party that trashes your home.  With this reality firmly in mind, here are my top 10 tips for Airbnb hosts.

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Our adorable Hyde Park Cottage in Boise, Idaho
  1. Do your research before you commit to being an Airbnb host.  Stay at several Airbnb‘s yourself and see what you like/dislike.  Go through the booking process, examine how other hosts present their properties, look at reviews of properties where you stay and properties that are located near your property.
  2. Have an emergency plan.  We have a family member who lives locally and oversees our property for us.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friendly family member to assist you, then you will need to hire a property manager.  In addition to handling emergencies, this person/company can check people in and walk guests through your property so they have a great experience.  We also keep a lockbox on property in case of emergencies.  A guest WILL lose a key so, to prevent midnight calls, get a lockbox that goes on a door knob with a code you change after every guest.  Stuff happens.  Be ready.
  3. Cleanliness is key to bookings. Guests will let you know in their reviews if there are housekeeping issues and then you will miss out on future income.  Face it, no one wants to stay in a dirty place.  We deep clean every time we visit and our property manager handles the cleaning after each guest leaves.  Have cleaning supplies handy for guests to use as needed, especially if you have long-term clients staying longer than a few days.  Same goes for toilet paper, paper towel, garbage bags, etc.  Extra is better.  If a guest runs out of toilet paper, you are guaranteed a less than stellar review.
  4. Little touches make a difference.  We provide complimentary bottles of shampoo and body wash, coffee/tea/sweeteners, umbrellas, strong Wi-Fi, board games, cards, a Frisbee and a couple of bikes.  Guests love the bikes at our cottage as we are close to downtown Boise and parks and tend to attract an outdoorsy clientele.  We are kid-friendly with a port-a-crib available as well as kids books/,movies, and games.  After a client leaves, Airbnb will send an email to guests so they can leave a review.  When we check in a guest, we encourage them to complete the reviews.  Great recommendations will get you listings. The more, the better!
  5. Comfy bed, linens and towels are essential.  We learned the hard way that cheap towels don’t last.  Buy everything in white so you can bleach out the crazy stains you will find and spring for nice quality, not WalMart specials, so they last longer with frequent use.  Same with your mattress.  When we rent an Airbnb for vacations, I always read the reviews specifically looking for a great bed that won’t torture our backs.
  6. Tourist information is up-to-date and plentiful.  We gather the latest tourist brochures and magazines from downtown hotels and restaurants when we stay at our cottage and leave the information for our guests so they know awesome places to eat and visit in Boise.
  7. “Above and beyond” perks are appreciated by all.  We have stayed at Airbnbs all over the world and the best perks were: Bluetooth Bose speaker at our Waiheke Island, New Zealand Airbnb so we could listen to our playlists while lounging in the giant beanbag chairs on the patio and fresh soda bread upon arrival at our thatched roof cottage in Galway, Ireland. That’s great service!
  8. Fully loaded kitchen with everything needed to cook.  I know many people go on vacation to eat out at restaurants but I like to explore the local groceries and cook to save $$ that we use on other travel splurges like zip-lining, shopping, and concerts.  Upon arriving late in Portugal, we found out that coffee was not a big deal there so thus no coffeemaker just instant coffee and a hot water pot.  Bummer.  I will be first to admit I am a coffee snob who grinds beans fresh every morning.  We immediately went out and bought a coffee press for the apartment which we left for the next guest. Also, we supply salt and pepper as well as  plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil and every kitchen utensil, pot and pan that you need to make a meal at our cottage.  Guests love it!
  9. Safety first.  Provide a fire extinguisher just in case. Hopefully no one will  need it.  Of course, you should have working fire detectors and carbon monoxide alarms too.  We don’t provide candles or a grill due to fire safety concerns with our wood cottage.  Be prepared for the worst and provide a first aid kit.  I was injured on the ferry ride to our Airbnb cottage in New Zealand and the host promptly provided a cold pack for my injured hand.
  10. Finally, expect to make money but understand the expenses you will incur.  First, price your property within similar market offerings but not at the low-end.  Airbnb might encourage you to drop your price but we did our research and kept our pricing firm.  Guests may try to do side agreements to sidestep Airbnb but we politely refuse.   You run risks if you don’t have backing of Airbnb in case of damage and there will be damage.  We’ve been lucky with only one issue and the guest paid for the damage quickly so we didn’t even have to get Airbnb involved.  We allow only dogs due to my husband’s allergies to cats, which helps bookings because not very many properties allow dogs.  In our three years as hosts, we have only had people “acting like animals” damage and no true animal damage.  Go figure!  To save on energy costs, we installed a programmable thermostat that we can monitor via an app on our phones to make sure that in between guests, the temperature is appropriate.  You will need to have a landscaper, pest control, HVAC person, handyman and plumber identified and use as required.  The costs do add up–a broken water line here and an ant invasion there will reduce your profit.  Save some of that rent $$ for regular needed maintenance and emergency repairs or you will be sorry.  If you plan to occupy the property like we do on a regular basis, it will be convenient for you to have one closet locked and for your use only for your personal toiletries and extra clothes. We just bought a mini fridge for the basement so we don’t have to keep throwing out condiments after each of our personal visits between guests. Buying ketchup, mayonnaise, and butter every visit can add up and you can’t really leave food stuff for guests to use.

Hopefully these tips will help you if you decide to become an Airbnb host.  Overall, it’s been a good experience for us and a great assistance financially to help us pay for our second home to spend time near our family.  Good luck and happy hosting!