Neato Places Archives - Curious Lola

Curious Lola

Bored? 3 Free Online Resources for a Creative Jolt.

Dahlia Collage- Pink
I’ve reached a new level of boredom. Restless and useless only begin to express what it’s like waiting for this baby to be born. I know I should be ‘cherishing my last moments alone’. But when at the point when you seriously consider whether or not to bother with elastic pants for the hassle it is to get into them, all those fun things that would make for a truly cherishing moment seem a little less appealing. Especially things that require pants or even moderate mobility.

And so I turn to the interwebs for new ways to get entrenched in a project and learn a little something. I thought I’d share my top three sources this week for some quality time spending. Bank them for when you are sick, awaiting an event you have little control over, or when you are just a bit bored and need new thoughts in your noggin.

First: Skillshare

Do you guys know about this. So many incredible classes and some of them free. The image above is my class project from an Adobe Illustrator course that makes collages out of fruits and veggies (instructor Lydie Petit). Thanks Seattle Wholesale Growers Market for the local flowers. Lydie’s class is with a paid membership (which is totally reasonable) and other topics range from How to Make a Perfect Cup of Coffee, Baking Essentials, Branding your Business, Coding, and Writing a Screenplay. I also learned a technique to illustrate monsters and took a bomb and FREE patterning class from Jenna Frye

Here’s another collage thing with a message that an old man told me when I was eleven (and nagging my mom to entertain me). I’ve made a motto of sorts and still remind myself of this on a regular basis.

Collage3 with quote-sm

Second: Creative Mornings

This is a live lecture series that is carried out in cities all over the world. All the lectures/ talks are filmed and stored on their website. The lectures AND the local events are free and cover a wide range of topics. Search by city or topic. The next live talk in Seattle is at Galvanize in Pioneer Square on September 11th with speaker Marcy Sutton. It’s sort of like a TED talk but more casual and with local talent, business owners, and movers-shakers.

My favorite lecture is from Ben Chestnut (founder of MailChimp). This lecture received lots of laughs and a couple of fist pumps to the air. Is there an emoticon for that?

Finally: MIT Open Coursework

A bit more of a time commitment is MIT’s free coursework online. Oodles of topics to geek out on but one that has me interested is this one: Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra. Just check out the applications in the course description:

  • Automated design of new and complex origami, such as
    • Freeform Origami, Origamizer, and Rigid Origami Simulator by Tomohiro Tachi
    • TreeMaker by Robert J. Lang
  • Transforming robots by self-folding sheets or chains
  • How to fold robotic arms without collision
  • How to bend sheet metal into desired 3D shapes, such as
    • Unfoldable polyhedra with convex faces
    • Orthostacks
  • Understanding how proteins fold

I mean, you really just never know when you will need this stuff. If you have any other ideas of stuff to do while waiting for baby, ugh, please, pass them on!!!!!!!


A Sanctuary for the Joyful Mother- a Search for Portland’s Inspiring Spaces

This past July, I was especially pumped for Jessica and Cody’s wedding because it meant I would be taking Lola Event Floral & Design to Portland. In an attempt to squeeze out a tasty glass full of summer fun in this jam-packed season, I booked a spot on a historic sailboat- a floating hotel room courtesy of Holly through Airbnb.

These guys kept me company.

The week prior to the wedding I filled with visits to Portland’s famous gardens and public spaces that I had only read about in landscape architecture books and journals, tours of the areas coffee houses, and a dinner with my bestie from my pre-teen years- long lost but found through the magic of facebook.

In three days I would hit up:

Lovejoy fountain

The Grotto

Tanner Springs

Jamison Square

The Japanese Garden

the Rose Garden (eh, the one by the Japanese garden, at least)

and Pittock Mansion.

We’ll tackle the first four today.

My first stop was Lovejoy Fountain, an urban space designed by Halprin and Associates that I’ve oogled over in books since I was a wee landscape design student.

I’ve seen photos in the fall with leaves floating in the pools, photo stilled, clear water running over concrete, people dancing on the floating platforms, etc. Lovely, right?

Not so much. Maddening actually. Not only is the sound of water crashing unnerving rather than relaxing, but the entire space seemed to be a monstrosity, set upon the landscape rather than woven into it. Hard, arrogant, and unwelcoming are words I would use to describe this space. Concrete and water but no life.

Next stop was the Grotto, which I had never heard of but was a place some high seo ranking yelper recommended. The grotto is a many-acred Catholic shrine and botanic garden dedicated to “The Sorrowful Mother.” A little depressing but sounds like it might be lovely.

The grotto is carved out of the rock face of a cliff. Mind slowing chants are pumped from some mysterious speaker, and lush foliage drips off the rocks. Pretty impressive. I can see how the faithful would love to worship in this place. To get to the botanic garden, one must donate a fee to ride up this elevator (or I assume trek up through the woodland). Once I saw this elevator, I had to get in.

If this is the gateway to the botanic garden beyond, then I was about to be wowed indeed. Surely some kind of transformation would occur in an elevator like this. Some amazing experience would be revealed at the top. So I held my breath and pressed the ‘up’ button.

whuh?….. No. My anticipation shriveled. This cannot be the interior to the elevator of transcendence… sigh.

I should have stopped at the elevator. Unfortunately what lay beyond was not inspiring enough to persuade my little finger to nudge the shutter. This place was less botanic garden and more a repository for well intentioned donations chronicling pain and sacrifice. No wonder the Mother is sorrowful. Perhaps a design minded devotee can donate some landscape design expertise.

Thirsty for some coffee and in need of some inspiration, I headed back into the city. Where are the spaces that inspire and engage. Magnetic places? Places where anyone can find some peace, connection, and transcendence? While walking to my next stop, Tanner Springs, I stumbled over Jamison Square.

(Gasp)! This is it! The perfect solution to the heavy handed and misguided Lovejoy Fountain and the depressing Grotto! Jamison Square, the Sanctuary for the Joyful Family. Swarming with people, buzzing with laughter, open and accessible. Thank you, Portland, this place is positively uplifting!

Up the street from Jamison Square is Tanner Springs the kind of landscape inspiration I had been looking for.

This place not only has a function to filter and reduce stormwater runoff, but it also promotes sustainable practices in a way that doesn’t slam you upside the head. Historic railroad and stone is reused in the walkway and art wall, native plants are used throughout, and the site offers a variety of spaces in which to relax.

Historical elements are rearranged into a design for now.

 Orderly lines are softened and interrupted by strategic disorder.

Tanner Springs has places to take a nap and read, or places to people watch.

Stay tuned for more Portland excursions!


Salvage and Survival

This morning I cautiously popped my head out of my sliding front door before heading out. Not to see if it is raining, no. To size up the perils of my backyard and what lies beyond. Birds chirping, check. Appropriate level of street noise, check. Piles of leftover construction wood- unkempt, but in an organized sort of mess that would make sense to only me and my sweetie. No OCD intruder has come in the night to organize our yard. Wood, Check. On the way to the car, I suspiciously eyeball the people at the bus stop before jumping in the safety of my Korean hotrod (it’s actually closer to a old boot on wheels.)

Why am I acting like a freak? No, we haven’t been burgled. I stayed up all night reading the Hunger Games and now I’m obsessed. Tired and hungry, too. That just makes it all the better to feel like I’m on some sort of quest.  A bird flies into the understory and I think, “Ya, you better get out of here… or I’ll eat you.”

I don’t read fiction often because of the life disrupting effects. Not only have I not eaten, slept, or completed any urgent work, this morning I have an overwhelming need to go to the metal scrap yard. Work will have to wait again. On the drive down, each person I pass is a competitor, and I throw them a glance as my Korean hot rod passes them at a cautiously fast but clearly superior speed. Breakin’ the rules. Stickin’ to the… well, I guess I don’t really have a point in passing everyone. To win, I guess.

I haven’t been to Pac Iron since I was a sculpture student in college and now I have a hankering to see what types of junk can be remade into cool stuff. I need fodder for a post but more importantly, I can’t help but think this place would be like a treasure world for a survivalist. So I’m off to Pacific Iron and Metal.

A whole bin of machine screws. Like candy.

Hefty sheet metal- protects from all sorts of elements including poison fog.

These are cool. I almost brought some home, but the face on the container was a little scary.

Nothing jumped out at me to take home and remake, though I may go back for some of these chains for a chandelier project we’ve got coming up at Lola Floral (stay tuned for that!).

I had forgotten how much I like the smell of burnt metal, but overall I was underwhelmed. I remember this place having a lot more cool junk- from boats and stuff. But then it hit me. Of course. The rebellion. It’s all being melted down to support the rebellion.

And since I didn’t find something I wanted to remake into something else, here are some great uses of repurposed materials from the nation’s rebels.

Sewer pipes from

wood wall from Design Sponge

salvaged wood for a fence by Valle de Verde via

Wagon Shelf from Ki Nassauer

Succulent planter from Small Space Gardening


Wishing you all a mental vacation and some salvage inspiration.



Luminous Bloedel Reserve

This past weekend I went to Bloedel Reserve on a whim. I was going to Bainbridge Island for a garden design and figured I’d stop for a visit. The day was completely scheduled out with things to do, so I allotted 2 hours for the visit. While there, I found myself wishing I had all day to reflect, contemplate, and watch the changing light.

I’m so happy that I can move my feet. So that when I want to touch raindrops or sun, I can just move out from underneath whatever is blocking me.

The light, this day, was amazing. It waned slowly from buttery yellow to grey and back again. I found myself holding my breath waiting for the glow of sun through clouds to come back as if the sun demanded silence in order to return. The breeze was also surprising. It wasn’t strong but it was steady and made me wonder how it could sneak through this wooded area and still be so consistent or what the wood was protecting me from on the outside.

Oemleria cerasiformis: Indian Plum

Is that sunshine behind me?

I love elevated boardwalks through forest. It allows you to look around more without worrying about stepping on a banana slug.

This willow positively glowed. The fact that it came out in a photo glowing is just that much more amazing since subtleties in light are so difficult to capture (for me anyways) with a camera.

After about a mile of walking through woods and meadow, I walked out of the forest to get this glimpse of the French château inspired home. Hopefully the lawnmowers have an easier time getting here.

Paulownia tomentosa: Empress tree- one of my faves

 This Empress tree has such a wonderful structure. I recommend it if you have a lot of room- or a château lying around that needs that extra something.

Corkscrew hazelnut!!!

Corylus avellana 'contorta': Corkscrew Hazel (I think)

Those catkins look good enough to eat!

I love this arrangement made with clippings from the reserve.

Acer griseum: Paperbark maple

Hellebores surrounded banks and were planted high enough that I could enjoy the blooms. Thank you Bloedels for thinking of that.

Violet and Chartreuse- so lovely.

Somehow I don’t think this vista is an accident. We are approaching the Japanese garden.

I love the mounding and massing of earth and plants here. I love the depth and movement.

Moss Garden

Rhododendrons taking off. Like pretty UFOs.

This reflection pond is iconic and one of the spaces that drew me to visit this space. Unfortunately, by the time I came to this, I was running through to get to my appointment. Serenity and reflection will have to be postponed. 2 hours are just not enough time here. I would say 3.5 would’ve been perfect. Visit sometime. The reserve is now open to the public on consistent and reliable days and times.

Finca Filidelfia- Coffee Farming in Guatemala

Finca Filidelfia was an unexpected highlight to me and my sweetie pie’s honeymoon to Antigua, Guatemala last summer. My favorite part, actually. So I figured, what better way to celebrate such an essential part of my creative process (coffee) than to share with you what I learned from this amazing place. Brace yourself, because this is a big, long post.

Finca Filidelphia has been a coffee plantation since 1874, part of a plan to bring the region out of economic hardship at the time. I think before then it was avocados. It sits about 20 minutes outside of Antigua.

Just Birds of Paradise… as a foundation plant…. no biggie.

One thing that surprised me is this whole ta-do about ‘shade grown.’ Turns out it doesn’t mean anything important. Arabica coffee plants (except new engineered varieties) need shade to optimize production. So any farmer wanting to produce the most coffee berries is going to grow their coffee in some shade. How that shade is achieved is where farms differ. And there’s really no ‘shade grown’ certification or stamp of approval to determine which is which.

Some smaller or family run farms can plant coffee into existing forests, preserving the native trees, understory, and multitude of other plants and epiphytes living there. The benefit of this is that it is low-cost for the producer, habitat is most preserved, water use and pesticide needs are minimized, and erosion is minimized because trees aren’t removed. Coffee grown in these situations can be certified ‘Bird Friendly’  The downside is that coffee berry yields are lower because the shade is too dense. Production oriented larger farms clear out the existing forest, and plant trees that can be managed easily to give the coffee plants the optimal light levels. The bummer here is that part of the forest is clear-cut which would lead to erosion. Non-native trees are brought in, and there is the potential for more water use and possibly pesticides/ fungicides. Once matured, these plantations can provide some habitat. The non-shade grown use no trees and is typically high in water and pesticide use, low in habitat viability. These are usually robusta trees instead of arabica bushes.

Filidelfia includes coffee fields in dense forests on the accessible-by-foot hillsides, and managed non-native canopy coffee fields in the more accessible valleys. The trees are from Australia and can take a heavy pruning to achieve the optimum canopy cover percentage. The wood from the trees are sold as firewood and the clippings and branches cover the coffee fields in a rich, thick layer of duff- an excellent mulch. With this much thick duff on the ground. Filidelfia only has to water for a very short period in the hottest months, and doesn’t use pesticides/fungicides. Yay.

And you thought this post wasn’t flower related. Here’s a coffee flower.

That ONE coffee berry is almost ready for picking. Coffee picking is CR-AZY. All arabica plants are hand-picked. As if that weren’t difficult enough, the berries aren’t mature at the same time and each individual berry has to be carefully removed from its tiny petiole, the little branch attaching the berry to the main branch. If this little guy isn’t still attached to the branch once the berry is removed, it will no longer produce berries. Ever. So imagine a coffee berry picker wants to fill their baskets fast (they are paid by weight) and strips all the berries off in one swipe… dead coffee bush. For this reason, the same berry pickers are typically hired year after year. Here they are mainly women since the fellas go off to harvest sugar cane near the coast. The ladies bring their kids, the kids learn to correctly harvest the berries, and they often take over for their parents.

Here’s the inside of a coffee berry. Apparently I had a freak berry (figures) that had three beans. Usually they have two.

The protective casing or parchment of the bean is sweet.

Arabica bushes are finicky and susceptible to rot. Here is where they graft arabica beans onto hardier robusta root stock to make for some stronger plants.

This process is amazingly low tech. I thought grafting necessitated lab coats and furrowed eyebrows…

…but the process only involves a deft, razor-wielding woman and wax.

Here are the arabica bushes with the severely hacked Australian canopy tree. Guatemala is especially well suited to grow good coffee given its elevation, climate, and super rich, volcanic soil. This wood is piled by the road and carted off by truck, or on foot to be sold.


Avocados! Did you know there are over 20 different varieties of avocado?

Here’s where the beans go to dry.

Grey beans ready to roast.

Here are three sizes of beans. Before roasting, the beans are sorted. The middle bean is just right, and the other beans are either tossed, or sold cheap. Remember the three beans that were in my berry? Only the one bigger one would have been allowed into this farm’s cup of coffee. If the beans are all about the same size, that ensures that they will all roast consistently, so some won’t impart an over or under-roasted flavor.

This is where beans go to roast.

My Americano. Muy rico.

And here’s a window with a wheel in it. Neato.

And a happy canna. One that probably doesn’t turn to black smoosh in the winter like it does up here.

So in summary, shade-grown schmade grown and go to Antigua, Guatemala.

Here’s some more info on shade grown coffee from Wikipedia

Shade-grown coffee – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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