Where gardens grow

Regarding favorites—favorite garden nursery, favorite bistro, favorite spa, or favorite tea shop—you might picture locations you’ve happened upon during your travels that check off one or two of the above-mentioned categories. Quite recently, I was treated to a day in a place that features all four and more: Windmill Gardens.

You’ll find this five-acre village of classy, unpretentious mercantile in the town of Sumner, Washington. And once we entered the grounds, I couldn’t believe the discoveries we made at every turn.

Garden epic

Plants, flowers, trees, soils and seeds—high and low, plentiful and beautiful—occupying much of the acreage, spilling purposely from the long greenhouse-style buildings into the outside patios. Employees were busy keeping this popular shop tidy, assisting customers and ringing up purchases—and fielding questions.

As I wondered how far their living inventory needed to travel to reach this place, a cashier answered that very question to one of my friends. Only a few miles down the road, their production facilities—25 acres worth—grow all kinds of flowers and greenery.

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Just outside our parking spot, The Village connected the nursery with the smaller but very quaint tea shop, spa and other stores all the way to the courtyard, restaurant and windmill. Brightly colored flowers, plants and water features lead the way to each door.

Gadget unique

Not to be outdone by the greenery and floral displays, garden accessories of every size, shape and color were available for purchase. An impressive selection, to say the least. In need of garden boots, gloves, hats, mats, tools,clothing—fairy furniture? Running low on terrarium supplies? Metal figurines? Bird feeders—and bird baths? Signage? It’s all there.

Because the one thing missing from my backyard was a metal pink flamingo, I made my purchase while my other friend picked out some greenery for her backyard. (I did eye a water feature—maybe next time.)

Gourmet fare

Walking into Tea Madame was a delight to the senses, even before enjoying a free sample. Loose leaf blends sold here—many exclusive to this shop—are also the delicious subjects of this store’s tea tastings (classes). Sounds like flavorful fun to me! Jewelry and even chocolate joined the many different tea accessories on the shelves. It was tough to leave! Ah, but it was time for lunch at the Windmill Bistro.

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It’s difficult for me to pass up crab Mac-n-cheese, so I didn’t. But all of our entrees were flavorful and reasonably priced. This restaurant alone is definitely worthy of a return visit.

Upon learning that the Bistro is also available in the evenings for private events—and that it provides catering for celebrations taking place in the courtyard or adjacent building just outside—I began to make the connection…

Gala flare

Weddings, milestone anniversaries and birthdays, and other special events; I can see how all venues on site come into play to make this place nearly an all-inclusive locale.

Need a gazebo for your nuptials? Check! How about an on-site florist? Done! While the Bella Ragazza Spa & Salon pampers the bridal party, the beautiful grounds and whimsical windmill building accommodate your guests for an enchanting evening of festivities.

I always admire those who possess a green thumb. They have the ability to turn a patch of dirt into a garden, a vase of flowers into a bouquet—even an old appliance into a colorful planter. And now, after my visit to the Windmill Gardens, I’m willing to try just a bit harder to make my living spaces a little more alive. J 🌳

 

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Odd things chocolate

Are you ready for some chocolate!?! It’s February, and that means two foodie-frenzy celebration days: Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day. And while chocolate will play a minor roll on the menu of most Super Bowl parties, chocolate will enjoy center stage come February 14.

So, time to visit a market! But for me, not just any market will do. When I’m looking for something unique from the world of chocolate, I head to the market: Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

Piggy banks

A city icon since 1907, the Pike Place Market receives over 10 million visitors per year, and is Seattle’s number one tourist attraction. Here you can find anything from produce to baked goods, fresh cut flowers to hand-crafted leather journals, even flying fish and giant piggy banks. Oh, and odd things chocolate.

Recently one Tuesday morning, I walked from Rachel the Piggy Bank to Billie the Piggy Bank (both located on the market’s main arcade level), then went in search of something different to enjoy at dinner time—a variation of chocolate not found on your average supermarket shelf: chocolate pasta.

Papperdelle’s Pasta of Pike Place Market was just setting up their selection of pastas for the day when I found the exact flavor I was looking for. I picked up both the gemelli and the linguine noodles—one pound each. And a friendly, helpful employee at Papperdelle’s made sure I had recipes to go with each type of noodle.

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By the way, it’s exciting to watch the market come to life. Shops and stands were preparing for the day, and the number of visitors was well under crowd level—for the moment.

Charms

Making my way to the north end of the market (near Billie), I found something else on my list: Market Charms. Specifically the panel featuring my family’s charm. (The market’s information booth employee kindly helped me with its location.)

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Very exciting! Part of the new MarketFront area, the charms face Elliott Bay, escorting visitors as they make their way through the stands of local artists and down the stairs to lower levels. It was there I discovered my next chocolate stop: Indi Chocolate.

Have you ever tried chocolate orange tea? After paying a visit to this heavenly smelling shop, I can say I have. Delicious! Perfect for a slightly chilly morning in Seattle as the weather was making up its mind, switching from rain to sunshine.

Alleys

If you’re done chewing your gum and wish to contribute to the artistry of the market, you owe it to yourself to swing by the Gum Wall of Post Alley.

You’ll find it just below the market’s main entrance, near Ghost Alley Espresso. While I don’t consider gum—chewed gum, no less—to be a common ingredient in works of art (especially when I step in it or grab the wrong spot on the railing for the subway stairs), this alley’s decorated brick walls are a thing of beauty. Oddly so.

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From the Gum Wall, Post Alley weaves its way along the east side of the market, cutting through streets and stands, a bit hidden, but not too difficult to find. Making my way north along the alleys, I found Gosanko Chocolate. A shop very near The Pink Door, I wandered in just to see what fun chocolate treasures I could discover.

And there it was. Chocolate on a stick, just waiting for a mug of hot milk! I picked up three flavors: peppermint, salted caramel and French truffle. (I couldn’t decide on just one…)

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As morning switched over to noon, it was time for me to make my way home. I always appreciate this special place, every time I visit. The Pike Place Market is a vibrant community with a rich history and an exciting future. Lots of oddly wonderful and yummy discoveries await.

Whatever you need for your Super Bowl or Valentine’s Day cuisine, you’ll find it here. For now, I wish you safe and pleasant travels, and all the odd chocolate you can enjoy.

J 😎🍫