When my younger daughter, Julia, wrapped up 5th grade at Lakeridge Elementary last year to join her sister Grace at Islander Middle School, I thought that my time as a parent volunteer was drawing to a close.
Over the summer I learned that my perceptions were incorrect. With children at two different schools, I had not zeroed into all the opportunities there are at Islander Middle School (IMS) to provide much needed assistance to the staff, teachers, and students at the middle school level. I joined the IMS PTA board, which gave me a whole new world view regarding the need for parent volunteers. We are truly needed!
When our kids reach their early teens some of them don’t want us to be an active part of their daily school life, aka “I don’t want you to be seen by my friends at school!” That can make it a tough choice for parents who want to be involved. Plus, staff and teacher time have to fill the gaps made by the loss of parent volunteers. I learned through my new connection to IMS that there are *so many* tasks and jobs that make a HUGE difference at the school, but don’t involve much contact with your child and her friends. It’s a total win-WIN!
I decided to join my friend Melanie Werdel and tackle monthly staff appreciation luncheons at the middle school. As co-VPs of Staff Appreciation, we coordinate finding chairs/co-chairs (fun to do with a friend!) and volunteers for each monthly luncheon, provide support for theme and menu ideas (Pinterest!), coordinate decorations and donations, plus roll up our sleeves to assist with making each lunch a special event for our IMS staff. Melanie and I chaired the first event in August so we could learn the ins and outs of putting one on since we were new at our roles. It was so fun! We hosted breakfast, lunch and secured a mobile espresso cart (donated by four families) for a mid-afternoon treat for the Teacher training/prep day. The community support was overwhelming….families baked yummy treats, our favorite Southend Starbucks donated to the cause, and our local Homegrown contributed to make our IMS faculty and staff feel appreciated.
Angela Brown and Janet Smith co-chaired the September luncheon and did a phenomenal job coordinating and serving lunch in the brand new teachers lounge. Again, the support we received from the IMS parent community was huge. When Angela and Janet sent out the sign-up it was filled within 24 hours with four different kinds of chili, all of the fixings, delicious salads, and homemade baked treats. The teachers and staff were so appreciative!
If you are an IMS parent, and would like to chair/co-chair, help, or donate at future staff appreciation luncheons, below is the calendar of upcoming dates. Please contact me at (206) 225-1500, or email me at at Julie.Wilson@windermere.com to let me know which luncheon you would like to volunteer at, and in what capacity. We need to provide food about 50 people at both Lunch A (11:20-11:50) and Lunch B (12:20-12:50). We also need volunteers to set up, serve during lunch periods, and clean up. Thank you so much!!
October Thurs 10/27
November Thurs 11/17
December Tues 12/13 (Mobile espresso cart and cookie exchange)
January Thurs 1/19
February Thurs 2/9
March Thurs 3/16
April Thurs 4/20
May Thurs 5/4
I’ve been going through a major overhaul of my office. It’s been taking me a while, and it has resulted in quite a few items I need to find new homes for, or just plain recycle. It can be a hassle to find a convenient place to take many of these things, but I have a solution for this problem! My office, Windermere Real Estate on Mercer Island, is hosting our annual recycle event in a few weeks – and it’s a totally FREE event!
The recycle event is scheduled for Saturday, June 11th, 10am – 2pm. It’s held right in our office parking lot and there will be a station for recycling old electronics, appliances, batteries, ink toner cartridges, Christmas tree lights, and medical equipment. Then there will be a station to bring your old bikes and bike parts. And then there will be a station to securely shred your old documents. How’s that for the trifecta of recycling?!
PS– We’ll also be accepting voluntary donations for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services at this event. They are our Windermere Foundation grant partner.
I’ve been honored to work recently with two clients who wanted to sell their rambler style homes on Mercer Island. I’ve fallen deep for this kind of home. Ramblers possess good flow from room to room, supporting the ability to reside in casual elegance throughout all the spaces. Ramblers on Mercer Island often have vaulted ceilings, which give such an airy feeling to the main living areas. And the generous windows bring in so much light. This light, it’s the icing– it makes the rooms feel warm, inviting and homey.
I’d like to share with you a bit of history about this style of house. It’s pretty fascinating, especially since the popularity of one level living is quite high again in our current housing market. I think it is so cool how what was in vogue over 50 years ago has gain so much appeal again today.
The one-level living of a rambler, or ranch-style house, was all the rage for over 40 years, from the 1930s to 1970s. Ramblers were often nestled into tract-style suburban neighborhoods, ready for returning WW2 and Korean war veterans and their newly formed families. Casual living coupled with an outdoor connection to a private backyard space were the cornerstones of rambler homes. Two car garages became the suburban standard for these homes, as workers commuted by car to work in nearby metro areas.
Both the Prairie Style homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the casual pre-WW2 Bungalow style influenced the design of the rambler. Architect Cliff May is credited with building the first rambler home in San Diego, CA back in 1932. Due to the simple nature of the house design, where three key principles of livability, flexibility, and unpretentiousness were reflected in the plans, the rambler was both economical to build and purchase. Decorative finishes were kept at a minimum. This low-key mindset evolved into the sleek, modernist vibe of the mid-century modern rambler that took hold of the new construction scene during the 1950s and 1960s.
With the rambler’s roots planted in sunny California, the thought process behind the design was to let in much natural light and establish a notable connection to outside. The use of large sliding glass doors that led to a backyard patio is a standard element of a rambler. This style was the first widely-produced design where the outdoor space was considered part of the home.
The home design’s connection to nature has helped contribute to the resurgence of popularity of the rambler for today’s homebuyers in our region. 1st time homebuyers with growing families enjoy the outdoor spaces included with the home, and are drawn to the cool mid-century aesthetic so many Seattle area ramblers possess. Downsizing Boomers like the one-level living option ramblers provide that will support aging-in-place. Ramblers have minimal stairs, with most (to all) living areas residing on the one level.
I love how the generous lots ramblers are situation on provide the space to add shed-style small spaces that are so popular right now. My new mid-island listing on Mercer Island has a playhouse shed my clients converted into a meditative workout spot. They call it the “Zen den.” How neat is that?!
Now it’s your turn. If you love the rambler style home as much as I do, let me know what parts of this design style grab you the most. Please share in the comment section!
Photo Credit: Tucker English
A lovely, delicious meal, and engaging conversation, is my idea of the perfect evening. However, there’s a bunch of work that must be done prior to actually cooking and eating, like grocery shopping. And some weeks this chore is difficult to complete.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who struggles with fitting grocery shopping into my busy week. Our family has distinct lists for Costco, Trader Joes and QFC (the trifecta). It can be so overwhelming to work in mega shopping trips at all three stores into my schedule.
Since I am an "all or nothing" person, if I can't hit all three stores on my shopping day the shopping might not happen. Luckily, if I can make it to one store, Trader Joe’s, we’re set to serve some incredibly yummy meals at our dinner table with a minimal amount of effort. Our secret to dinner-time success hinges on the fantastic and easy recipes contained in "Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s" by Deanna Gunn and Wona Miniati. These fun, creative and easy meals, all made from ingredients located at only one store, are perfect for those nights I am on duty to drive my girls to their activities, or my husband and I are working late. They are so simple that everyone in the family can prepare them in a pinch. When I first heard about this cookbook I was so in!
A few of our favorites are "Red Curry Halibut" (page 133), "California Fish Tacos" (Page 95), "Peanutty Sesame Noodles" (page 55), and my daughters love to make "One Bowl Peach & Blueberry Cobbler" (page 206). Not only is this cobbler delicious, it only requires one dish for super easy cleanup – LOVE!
I can’t give this cookbook enough kudos. It has saved the day for me more times than I can count. The authors also penned eight other “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” books including ones dedicated to vegetarian meals and gluten free cooking. If you are only going to buy one cookbook this year, one of these TJ books by Gunn and Miniati must be what you put in your Amazon cart. With Amazon Prime shipping it can be on your doorstep in only 2 days– score!
Photo Credit: Gracie Wilson
The recently released Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report for Seattle (www.costvsvalue.com) contains incredibly helpful information on what are the best home projects to undertake that may yield the highest return on your investment when selling your home. I have the details on these best projects, plus the 10 worst projects with the lowest ROI for homes in Seattle. Get to scoop by clicking here: http://juliewilsonrealestate.com/remodel/
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When I daydream about my favorite places, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle filter to the top. I’ve lived in the three regions these cities are in and I adore each city for its unique culture and urban landscape. Where I have lived has helped shape me into the person I am, and build the family we are. That is incredibly special to me.
Just daydreaming about my cities was not enough – I love to ponder about my special places on a regular basis, and share the stories that define my time in each place. By including geography inspired décor within my home, I get fond reminders all the time about the places I’ve called home.
Geography accessories do not need to be limited to a map. I snagged my 3 city pillows at West Elm before they were discontinued. They’re simple – a square linen cover, in the color Flax, with black type. I found an Etsy shop that sold complementary city swag where I could get a Zip Code rectangular pillow to show case my current home town, Mercer Island. It’s a cotton, linen blend cover with a coordinating natural hue and black lettering. I get asked by visitors all the time to share the stories of these accessories, which I love to oblige! I recount my California days growing up, or how I would meet up with my best friend Shauna in Portland, or the fun my girls have on swim team and in choir right here on Mercer Island.
Maybe you'd like to incorporate some geography into your own interior decorating, and you are partial to maps but want them to be showcased in a unique way. Etsy is your hunting grounds, then!! You can have a canvas map designed to show where you and your sweetie met – Where It All Began. Serve an adult beverage in a rocks glass with your favorite metro map etched on it – Maps Rocks Glass. An artistically cut mat and map highlight the place you call home, perfect to frame and add to your personal photo gallery – HOME.
Houzz never disappoints when you are looking for interior design inspiration. Check out Guest Picks: Decorating with Maps and Geography for even more ideas to deck out your home with reminders of your special places. I have to tell you – I have a regional dish towel, and it makes me SMILE each time I use it. It whisks me back to my childhood and my heartwarming memories of sunny CA. I may need to pick a few more to hold in reserve when my current towel wears out, I use it that much!
Now it’s your turn. Do you have any geography décor in your home? What is one accessory you would like to add to a room that reminds you of a special place? Please share in the comment section – bonus points if you add links to where the item can be purchased, or a tutorial of how to make it.
Julia, Grace and I want to offer an appreciative thank you to everyone who participated in our cookie decorating event in December. We had the best time decorating cookies with you – and we are in awe at all you did to benefit the foster kids served by Treehouse. 10 lbs. of powdered sugar later – used on dozens and dozens of amazing cookie creations – we raised just over $1600 and delivered a car full of awesome toys, games and clothing. We also made the holidays brighter for local senior citizens by sharing with them the fruits of our decorating labor!
We would like to give special thanks to the Geisner family who graciously donated the use of the MICC facility. We had so much room to create and socialize! And three cheers for Mikayla Geisner, Brooke Comstock and Cassie Montgomery, and all the Moms, for your fantastic help managing the sugary chaos!!
Hosting this event for Treehouse is one of the best parts of the Christmas holiday for our family. We look forward to planning this time with you, to make the holidays brighter for local foster kids. We’ll see you again in December of 2016.
Spring cleaning – a centuries’ long tradition welcoming warmer weather and longer spans of daylight – has morphed into slang for a major cleaning or organizing project applicable at any time of year. So whether you are tackling a deep clean in the living room, or organizing the heck out of your child’s Lego collection, it can be said you are spring cleaning!
As we’re approaching the holidays, a time when we create wonderful memories with our own family, we have discussed with Grace and Julia the reality that not every family has the means to give gifts during this season. So my girls decided that we should inject some spring time into the upcoming holiday season and clean their rooms and donate toys and clothes with lots of life left in them to those who need them
When it came to their hefty stuffed animal collection, however, there was a bit of resistance. Grace and Julia have collected mountains of stuffed animals over the years. Each of these gently loved toys held special meaning for them. While the girls struggled at letting them go, the thought of a helping a child in need made the cleaning project go smoother.
I came across an organization that repurposes those stuffed animals to help those who are facing a traumatic experience. The Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (S.A.F.E) organization, a nonprofit which has a local chapter here in on the Eastside, collects and redistributes gently used stuffed animals for children in emergency situations. The cleaned toys are given to local police and fire departments, homeless shelters, church organizations and nonprofits benefitting children, who then give the toys to kids in need of some comfort during stressful situations.
Once we read about how our wonderful stuffed animal friends could really help kids in need, Grace and Julia became excited about sharing their stuffed toy collections. It was so important to my girls that the animals not be sold (even if the proceeds went to something charitable). The thought that their stuffed animals could make an impact on a child during a scary emergency situation made all the difference. As we packed up our bags we reminisced, laughing and talking about where each came from. We took pictures of the super special animals to cherish our memories of them. I have to tell you, it was a joyful, freeing experience for both Grace and Julia.
When we finished our cleaning tasks, we contacted our local chapter volunteer, "Beverly C" in Redmond, and she responded immediately with her address and instructions. When we dropped our bags off, the girls and I promptly received a wonderful email from Beverly thanking us for our donation. The whole experience was easy to implement and gave my girls the meaning they needed to let go of those special items to make space in their bedrooms. Both my girls and I recommended S.A.F.E to a number of our friends, who have since decided to make their own donations.
If you are facing a similar situation with your kids, because they do not want to let their stuffed animals go, sit down at the computer together and read about S.A.F.E. They have even put together a video to watch that explains how volunteers sort, clean and distribute the stuffed animals. The minute your children can picture being in a situation where it would be comforting to have a soft furry friend to hug, this cleaning chore becomes a win as opposed to a loss.
Another opportunity to do some major pre-holiday cleaning is right around the corner, and it will greatly benefit those in the Seattle area who cannot afford a bicycle. My office, Windermere Mercer Island, will be hosting a bike drive in our parking lot on Sunday, December 12th. We’re partnering with Bike Works, a local nonprofit that keeps bikes, bike parts and bike accessories out of the landfills while teaching youth and adults how to repair and maintain bicycles. With Bike Works kids can learn how to refurbish bikes and in the process earn their own bicycles through community service. Part of that community service involves repairing bikes to their prime working conditions for other children, who otherwise would not be able to afford a bike.
If you have bikes and bike parts, please bring them to my office located at 2737 77th Ave SE on Mercer Island during our bike drive on December 6th. Volunteers from Bike Works will be on hand from 12-3pm to collect the bikes and parts, to take back to their facility in Columbia City. The bikes that have seen better days will have all the usable parts removed from them and the rest of the bike responsibly recycled. Bikes in good condition will be given tune ups and refurbished to prime condition. They will be either given to low income youth through the UGottaGetABike and Kid Bike-O-Rama programs, to low income adults in need of a commuting bike through the Bikes-For-All, or sold at an affordable price at the BikeWorks bike shop. All proceeds from sales at the bike shop are used to support all the programs offered by Bike Works including sliding scale summer camps, Earn-A-Bike after school classes, adult repair classes and twice-a-month open shop time.
It feels so good to enter the holiday season with a clean, clutter free home – especially when you know the items you no longer need can be of great help to someone else. I’d love to hear from you about other local organizations that could benefit from our holiday inspired “spring” cleaning. Please share in the comment section!
With 4th of July quickly approaching, my brother and I recently chatted about what we’ll be barbecuing for the holiday. My brother is Mike Keller, the mastermind behind California Rancher which creates and sells an incredible line of all-natural, California-made gourmet seasonings and sauces for barbecue enthusiasts. The best barbecue dishes are simple, grilled dishes featuring excellent cuts of meat or farm-fresh veg, well-seasoned with herbs and spices, and elevated to perfection due to closely monitored time on the grill. In our discussion of holiday plans, the theme, “elevate and simplify,” started to develop.
I thought you might enjoy reading what we pinpointed as the essentials needed to up your bbq game. Here are the simple rules we think are indispensable when grilling:
- Pick the right cut of meat for your preferred dish. During college, both Mike and I worked at Chart House, a premier steak and seafood restaurant. Our server training was rigorous, and we memorized all the different cuts of meat and their characteristics. Filet Mignon is the most tender cut; top sirloin has the most flavor. New York Strip steak is the best of both worlds! Today, we’re fortunate to have access to a better selection of excellent meat choices, so we can find the right cut for what we want to serve our 4th of July crowd. Santa Maria bbq is a traditional California style of grilling. It involves slow cooking tri tip sirloin steak over red oak wood, which flavors the meat with its sweet smoke. You can achieve a similar effect at home, on your own grill, with a nice tri tip sirloin and your favorite Santa Maria Seasoning.
- #1 essential bbq tool is a digital thermometer. Mike’s mantra is that cooking to temperature produces perfectly grilled meat every time. The thermapen is Mike’s preferred digital thermometer. In Mike’s Santa Maria-Style Tri Tip recipe, he shares what temperature to cook to for rare steak (120F in the middle) or well done (up to 160F). It will take some practice to find the doneness temps for your grilled-to-perfection steak due to personal preference – for example, Mike’s personal preference is 115F in the middle for the ultimate rare steak experience. But with other types of meat, like poultry and pork, you need to reach a specific internal temperature to eliminate exposure to food borne illness. Click here for a helpful temperature chart courtesy of Food Network.
- Placement of the food on the grill to take advantage of heat levels. Depending on what type of grill you use, if you want to get a rich, smoky flavor you may have to move food off to the sides to cook it slower via indirect heat. If you use a smoker type barbecue, like the Big Green Egg (one of Mike’s favs!) or Traeger, you’ll need to plan time to smoke the food at a low temperature first before turning up the heat and cooking to the finish temperature. Slow and steady wins the race in the bbg game!
- Simple seasoning and sauces up the elegance of your grilled fare. My absolute FAVORITE dish Mike grills is beef tenderloin dusted with Santa Maria seasoning and slow cooked over red oak wood. That’s all there is to it. In fact, he made this for my last client appreciation event. He had chunks of red oak, a wood native to California, mailed to my house for this event. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Mercer Island Beach Club with Lake Washington as our backdrop, and Mike built up quite a fan club here on the island due to that evening! The beef tenderloin definitely stole the show, and it’s dead simple!
- When slicing meat, it’s important to cut against – or perpendicular to – the grain for maximum tenderness. A great piece of tri-tip or beef tenderloin can be reduced to shoe-leather tough if it’s sliced alongside the grain versus against it. And here’s a little know fact regarding the grain of a cut of meat: it often changes along as you slice through the piece, so you may need to adjust the angle of your slicing as you slice. For example, a tri-tip grain usually shifts 45+ degrees so the way you start slicing one end should typically be at a different angle than where you finish at the other end.
- The grill isn’t just for meat. Vegetables and fruits gain this amazing layer of epicurean goodness from time spent on the grill. My family goes nuts for kale chips cooked on the grill. I wash the kale, then massage it with olive oil and veggie rub. We especially like the charred edges of the large kale leaves that get smoky and crunchy. Other veggies that love a turn on the grill: asparagus, mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, beets, red potatoes. You can even lightly grill romaine lettuce for your next Caesar salad.
So there you have it! 6 easy rules to up your bbq game. These tips will be a great guide, and help you pull off your best 4th of July party to date. If you are in search of a new bbq recipe to try check here on California Rancher, or here for recipes courtesy of Big Green Egg.
And if you are wondering what Mike will be serving on the 4th, he’s planning on smoking a pork shoulder roast overnight in his Green Egg – it’ll be seasoned with Oaky & Smoky BBQ Rub mixed with a little brown sugar. With the help of the tool BBQ Guru, he will be able to maintain a steady temperature of 175 degrees overnight. He’s going to pull it apart and serve with a variety of sauces for dipping, including Hog Wild Habanero BBQ Sauce. And here at the Wilson house, we’ll be going “Hog Wild” this 4th of July. I’ll be serving barbecue chicken reminiscent to a recipe Mike developed. First I’ll season the chicken with Hog Wild Cajun-Style Rub. Then I’ll pop the seasoned chicken onto the grill for a quick turn on a higher heat to add grill marks. Next, I’ll drop the temperature down to a lower heat and slow cook the meat for about 45 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165F. The chicken will be paired with Hog Wild Habanero BBQ Sauce for dipping. Yum!
Grilling for friends is always a good time. It’s extra special on the 4th of July because you typically get time away from the office to spend the day outdoors with good friends and family. Everyone contributes to the meal, adding their own special touches to the event. The celebration lasts well into the evening and culminates with a spectacular fireworks show or time around the fire pit. When you “elevate and simplify” your grilling technique, you will serve the best meal each time and increase the enjoyment your event because the stress level will be at a minimum. The memories made will be a treasure for years to come!
*BBQ photos courtesy of Mike Keller. Hog Wild gift pack photo courtesy of Julie Wilson.
One of my favorite books of late is Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering and Organizing. It's given me a whole new perspective on my home, what I choose to keep and why (does it "spark joy" – if not, it needs to go!). If you have read Ms. Kondo's book and have been decluttering too, you may be wondering what you should do with those items that do not bring you joy.
Well… my office is hosting a free recycle and document shredding event on this Saturday, June 6th. It will be held right in the office parking lot. In addition to the appliance, metal and electronic recycling, this year there will be an organization on hand to recycle clothing and other cloth products! Plus, you can bring boxes of papers that you need shredded and watch them be shredded right there.
All the recycle event details are below. Click here for directions to Windermere Mercer Island. Give yourself a spark of joy by removing those unwanted items from your home once and for all, for free.