Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who Stole the Pretty Leaves?

Last week's sunshine lit up the landscape, spotlighting the neon reds, oranges, yellows and golds of Fall colors in the neighborhood. This seasonal display drew my eye up to stunning tall trees and down to tiny deciduous shrubs. Jack Frost? Nature's Paintbrush? There was color everywhere, right here in the Evergreen State. 

And suddenly, it ended. The view changed, along with the weather forecasts.   

Last week...
...this week.
Asian pear trees changing color...
... and dropping leaves.

Leaves on the ground, snow in the mountains; winter is almost here. I'm not complaining, oh no. Last year on this date (link) we had snow on the ground here at home. I vote to keep any snow up in the mountains until 2012.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Autumn Walk in Kubota Garden

The view through the entrance gates barely hints at the varied and beautiful landscape inside this park, a neighborhood treasure tucked away in South Seattle. An historic landmark, this mature twenty-acre garden blends Japanese garden concepts with native Northwest plants. Join Hilary and me on our stroll through the garden, decorated in its full Fall foliage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wicked Good Temptations

Touring the Theo Chocolate Factory

Just moments ago the box held 4 caramels and 4 ganache chocolates, and then we sampled just a few, sliver by sliver.

Chocolate, dark chocolate, truly good chocolate is absolutely the food of the gods. No, really, don't scoff. The scientific name (Greek) for the cacao tree is Theobroma Cacao and means "Food of the Gods". I heard that yesterday on a tour of Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle's Fremont Neighborhood. I toured, I ate, and I now I believe... it is indeed the food of the gods!

I learned all sorts of interesting chocolate factoids during the tour, and a Wikipedia article (link) listed a gazillion more for me today. Did you know that chocolate may be a health food, can improve circulation, might fight migraines, could delay brain function decline in the aged, and is a mild non-caffeinated stimulant? Beyond all that, the truly important fact is that good chocolate tastes heavenly. (and Theo chocolate is way beyond good!)

Theo Chocolate production facilities are located in funky, quirky Fremont, self-proclaimed center of the universe. The old brick warehouse at 3400 Phinney Avenue N. looked familiar when we pulled up. I'd been there before... many years before... on a tour... when the building housed the old Red Hook Brewery. Tasting tours are always fun, and how can you top beer or chocolate? 

The company has won recognition and awards for its business practices and fair-trade committment. The chocolate has won local, national and international awards for taste and quality. Oprah included Theo Chocolate on her 2008 Best List. After sampling my way through the entire collection in the retail display area, I agree with the plaudits. Theo produces some amazing chocolate. No, I can't pick a favorite yet, though I'm leaning toward the caramel confectionary dark chocolate choices rather than the chocolate bars. I might have to taste my way through all of the the winter offerings again (and again, and...)

It all begins with the seeds, about 20 per pod, picked from the trunk of the cacao tree.

Hilary smilingly displays her chocolate treasure bag.
I restrained myself and only brought a few items home to share.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall Foliage

It's that time of year when the camera travels with me in the car, all of the time, even when I don't plan to use it. You never know when something will catch the eye, a visual or action that is unexpected, somehow wonderful. Autumn's colorful leaves aren't exactly unexpected, but the slanting rays of sunlight can turn each tree into a neon display of reds, oranges and pinks. 

It's a good thing that I am compulsively early for appointments, tending to arrive with tons of time to spare. This day, enroute to a lunch date in Madison Park with friend Mimmi S., I repeatedly pulled into parking lots along the lake shore to admire the fall color and take a few photos. The waterfront drive from Seward Park, my neighborhood, to Madison Park is one long series of parks and greenspaces. That scenic stretch is a visual delight any time of the year, but it seemed doubly so after my recent weeks in Southern California. Here's a sampling of the foliage shots from my stops. (... and yes, I was on time for my lunch date.)
This beauty is a showstopper.
Rollerblade enthusiasts chose a scenic route.
Even the stems lose chlorophyl and turn red.
Hot pink leaves decorated Madison Park street trees.

Nature provided this color, not Photoshop.

It's November, but this little strawberry plant is still productive and optimistic.

Pyracantha berries are ready to decorate Thanksgiving displays.