Random Thoughts from Easter 2017

I awoke to a glorious Easter Sunday in Boise! Always a blessing to get up and greet the sun.  We’ve had a winter that didn’t seem to want to end. There was snow just last Thursday.

Our minister told a packed house; “Anyone who likes to garden has faith. It is an act of faith to put a seed in the ground and look forward to it springing forth with new life.”  Let’s get out there planting little sprouts to bring hope to ourselves and others.

Five years ago I would never expected to see police in uniform on duty with a bomb sniffing dog at church.  Now we are getting to use to it.  We had one at the Cathedral of the Rockies at Christmas too.  This time the policeman was extremely kind to everyone and the gorgeous German Shepard was very photogenic.  Fortunately, their presence was not needed.

We always buy flowers at Easter from the church youth group to help support youth mission trips in the summer. The pink and blue hydrangeas have thrived in my back yard. The one we go this year practically shouts, “Look at me!”

I buy the Calla Lilies in honor of my daughter Kayla, both the lily and Kayla have roots to China but grow well in Idaho. This year I am blessed to have both flowers and daughter grace my house with beauty.

This is the twenty-second year I have hidden Easter baskets, a family tradition. I will miss it when Kayla goes away to college, one more year of baskets.  We learned this year with Scott home for a while that you are never too old to bite off the ears of a chocolate bunny.

My son is off to Seattle May first to expand his world and hopefully hunt down a good first job.  We are all very excited for him.  The purpose of parenthood is to raise children who can float by themselves.  I will miss his good humor, beautiful photographs  and noise around the house.

Our male tom cat, Satch, had a good Easter. He discovered a box in the house just his size, always a delight.  The weather was perfect for cats to lay outside and soak up sun.

Easter is a time of new beginnings. May this year bring out the very best in you and your family.  Thanks for reading.

Extravagant Tiny Houses on Tour

Last weekend, the Boise High Music Department hosted a tour of 10 tiny homes in Boise’s Historic North End as a fundraiser.  Homes ranged in size from 240 square feet for a new home on wheels, to 380 square feet for a historic house (possibly a Sears and Roebuck catalogue house), to 1000 square foot home (500 square feet on the main floor with a basement). Most of the homes were built around the turn of the century, average about 800 square feet and while small were extravagant reflecting their owners eclectic taste. Many features embodied the homes’ heritage.  For example, most had fireplaces even if they no longer were functional, many had quirky additions, and one had two front doors.  Originally, one door led to the harness shop and the other door led to the family home.  Because Boise North end is designated a district, the double doors will stay and owners need permission for remodeling. Most of the garages were stables for horses in early days.

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Double doors for shop and family entrances

 

Owners of these homes are a diverse bunch; a retired couple , a single woman, a young couple, a mother and teenage daughter. All impress their unique style on their homes. Since owners have to pare down to what they love to fit in their tiny abodes, tour participants learned the owner’s passion. One house made room for a four-foot baby grand, in one house there was no TV, one house had a sunny sitting room opening to a glorious garden. In another home,the owners had lovingly crafted the furniture to fit the space and the kitchen tiles were hand-made reflecting the park view out the window.

Outdoors is the biggest room in the tiny house. We saw fabulous decks, seating areas with fire pits, handcrafted  cement and glorious yards. The tiniest foundation built home (350 feet) had a wrap around porch, a yard composed  entirely of zany stepping stones, perennials and a fountain. This house had one chair inside, a recliner for it’s owner to watch TV and a single bed. The owner told us she had lived in the house 13 years and regularly entertained large groups outside in good weather. Boise has 8 months of the year when we can be outside easily. The other four are iffy. These homeowners focus outwardly.

Kitchens are made roomier by opening walls to dining and putting regular size refrigerators around the corner. We had to ask several places where the refrigerator was and found it on the porch or in a hallway.

Most houses have regulation size appliances but the two diminutive homes under 350 square feet both had regular appliances in a smaller scale.

Doors are in short supply. Closets were open or covered with  curtains. Creative storage is found in every nook and cranny.

Small does not equate with cheap. We saw exquisite chandeliers, top of the line gas ranges, handsome vanities, Bosch dishwashers, and  a gas fire place imported from England.

Everyone had laundry, sometimes popped in on a porch or in a closet or bathroom. Most were high end stackable units, some were small in size.

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Stackable laundry was tucked into closets, bathrooms

 

Since most houses had only one bathroom, bathrooms did double duty. Many had two doors so you could access from hall or bedroom making an en suite, some also served as laundry rooms. There were many full-sized tubs including claw foot tubs but no double sinks. Sharing brushing your teeth must be a tiny house morning ritual.

While small, these houses were not inexpensive. The North end with its walkable restaurants and shops and strong sense of historic preservation sports some the highest prices per square foot in Boise ranging from $200 a square foot up. The sample new tiny house model at 250 square feet without a parking place was $68,000.  One of the one bedroom houses was available for rent starting in April 2017 for $1400 a month.20161015_154626

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250 sf house on wheels for sale

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tulip Mania

20160402_124542Spring is the season of tulips. Throughout history, the colorful tulip has been considered rare, partially because it has such a limited blooming season. Tulips burst forth in spring and each bloom lasts 1 to 3 weeks. The tulip season itself is limited to a couple of months. Even today tulip lovers have to be in the right location at the right time in order to view the vast fields of blooming tulips cultivated by tulip growers to sell their products. I have been fortunate enough to be in Amsterdam at the end of the tulip season two years ago and had the opportunity to view the world renowned Keukenof Gardens.  Just last week, I was in Skagit Valley, Washington for the first weekend of the Annual Tulip Festival, which runs April 1 to 30 this year.  If seeing grand displays of tulip fields are on your bucket list, you must be willing to flex your schedule since tulip bloom dates follow Mother Nature’s schedule not a tour guide book.

Tulips originated in Asia and Turkey over 1000 years ago. In Turkey, the flowers came to be called tulips because the flower looked like a turban. Tulip bulbs were transplanted to Holland in the 16th century. Because of their beauty and short bloom period, during the Golden Age, the Dutch engaged in financial speculation on tulip bulbs. Between 1636 and 1637, bulbs were so highly valued that prices rose daily reaching astronomical numbers. By the peak of tulipmania in February of 1637, a single tulip bulb was worth about ten times a craftsman’s annual income or more than a house at that time. Bulbs were sold by weight, usually while they were still in the ground. The crashing price of tulip bulbs in Holland caused by the default of a tulip merchant on a large contract is considered the first financial bubble. As prices dropped, leading to the ruin of many speculators the government tried to support bulb prices to no avail.  The brutal popping of the tulip bulb bubble ended the Dutch Golden Age and hurled the country into a mild economic depression that lasted for several years.  (This story of tulip speculation should sound familiar to anyone who has seen or read The Big Short about America’s housing market collapse in 2007-2008. Apparently, we have learned little about financial speculation over the past 300 years).

I have been blessed to see both the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Netherlands (about an hour by bus from Amsterdam) and the Tulip Festival in Skagit (about an hour by car from Seattle).There are some major differences and similarities between the two.

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Keukenhof Gardens provide a tranquil, viewing space for large numbers of visitors

The Keukenhof Gardens, sometimes called the Garden of Europe, is considered one of the most beautiful spring gardens in the world. The gardens served as the 15th century hunting grounds for the Castle Keukenhof, which still resides on the site. The gardens were established as public benefit in 1949 to help showcase the Dutch flower industry. The Netherlands is the largest exporter of flowers in the world. Keukenhof is filled with more than seven million tulips displayed in organized formal gardens surrounded by grass and accented by running streams, lakes, fountains, and walking paths. The gardens cover an expanse of about 80 acres.  The layout of the gardens is that such that while hordes of tourists are at the entry way once inside there are vast areas where there is only you, flowers, and an occasional swan.  The garden begs you to come and stay a while. If you choose to go, I would recommend you go by bus from Amsterdam so you don’t have to hassle with a car. Once off the bus, you are to free to spend the day on your own.

 

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, on the other hand, is a driving tour. Most people drive themselves.  There are signs everywhere marketing the tulip route, along with sheriff officers to help move the large numbers of cars along in an orderly fashion.  Skagit is a rural area in Washington. The roads are clearly not built for the traffic created by the festival. There are two display gardens, Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde.  We chose to visit Tulip Town because it was the easiest to reach by car. Parking was free but not easy to find. Fortunately for us, we were coming down from Canada on Saturday morning so access was fairly easy from the highway.  When we drove into Seattle on Saturday afternoon, we saw long lines of traffic exiting the highway at the tulip route.  I’m not sure how such volume could be handled in the parking areas we saw.  If you go, plan to go during the week if possible.  If not, go early in the morning on the weekends. The tulips in Skagit are displayed in vast rows of gorgeous colors surrounded by muddy walking paths.  There are tractor rides to take you around.  But I believe flowers are best admired on your own two feet.  While not at all formal or peaceful like Keukenhof, the rows and rows of various colors on a clear day are truly spectacular.  There were tons of children running everywhere, a clear sign that seeing tulips is a family outing.  Workers were vainly attempting to keep visitors out of the flowers.  But invariably you would look up and see people marching down the small muddy lanes between varieties, or groups of friends kneeling in the flowers with selfie sticks to get a picture of themselves surrounded by flowers.  Most amusing flower trespasser to me was a mom, who had popped her small baby girl, dressed in all pink into the pink tulips so only a little  smiling face was showing out.  Of particular interest to me was the diversity of the population viewing the Skagit flowers, many identifiable by their traditional clothing. I heard one of the paid “shoers” or tulip guards  say they had tried signs to keep people out of the flowers but so many languages were spoken at the festival they couldn’t put up enough signs. Apparently, flowers speak to all nationalities.

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Tulip Town, Skagit Washington showcases rows of tulips in wild abandon.

 

I have also learned that tulips speak in the animal world. When we first moved into our house in Boise, I had a beautiful professional garden put in with tulips, I had carefully selected by hand for colors and to provide a full season of blooming (2 months).  We had the garden put in the fall and moved into the house at Christmas.  The first spring, I heard a lot of noise on the front porch and I looked out our small side window to see a large eye staring backing in.  I was taken back for minute and then realized the eye belonged to a deer on our porch.  We have quite a few deer that run freely across the foothills where I live.  I came out the next morning to find that the deer had eaten every single tulip bloom and left the nasty daffodils behind.  I have since learned that deer consider tulips the bon bons of the flower world and are delighted to munch through your tulip garden when flowers are in full bloom.  This happened every year until the tulip bulbs gave out.  Bulbs only rebloom about three years and get weaker flowers each time.  Our yard is now full of daffodils, the national flower of Whales.  My family ancestry is Welsh so maybe there is some justice in our inability to support the Netherlands, though I still love tulips.

The beauty of tulips, their short blooming period, and bulb life remind me how transient all life is. In Ecclesiastes 3, it is written;

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…

For me, spring is tulip time.

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