Here’s mine: Picture a traditional Fourth of July picnic complete with hot dogs, beer, and baseball. Now change the hot dogs to some kind of veggie dogs that are a very strange shade of orange, substitute a cricket bat for the baseball bat, and locate the whole thing in the yard of an ancient castle in County Clare, Ireland. That’s where I spent Fourth of July in 1999, along with my sister, a friend who was going to school in Ireland, and an assortment of displaced Americans and amused students from other countries. It was great fun, and made me appreciate even more the unique love that we all hold for our own countries. Have a favorite memory yourself? Please share. Let us know what you’re doing this year, too! (Lucky us — we get to watch some fireworks along with Paola!) –Mary T.
Photo by Kathryn McCallum
When we moved west, a friend gave us a Seattle guidebook including unusual spots, among them the Walker Rock Garden. Beginning in 1959, Boeing mechanic Milton Walker and his wife Florence built the Gaudi-like garden of sculpture in rocks, geodes, and colored glass in the backyard of their small home. Imagine our surprise when we were taking a walk one night and realized the Walker Rock Garden is three blocks from where we live, located behind an unremarkable (and a little run down) house. Yesterday, we finally went for a visit.
From the street, you can see the spire of the colorful 18-foot bell tower and a portion of the miniature “Alps.” But once inside the yard, it’s truly amazing — a hill drops down to an incredible display that includes a paved seating area with a fireplace, fountains made with chunks of colored glass and petrified wood, and countless mosaic butterflies adorning walls and stepping stones.
The entire garden took the Walkers 20 years to build. (Makes me feel a little bit better about the projects we’re working on this year.) The garden is still privately owned, so it’s not a perfectly maintained museum — the fountains weren’t on, the ponds are being scrubbed for repainting, and the plantings seem a little overgrown. But the spirit of incredible outsider art remains intact. This is one place we’ll definitely come back and see again. Are there any odd gems in your neighborhood? –Mary T.
The Walker Rock Garden is located at 5407 37th Ave. SW, Seattle, WA, and is open to the public the second, third, and fourth Sundays of the month during June, July, and August. Admission is free. Learn more here.
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I went through a phase growing up when all I wanted was to live in a tree house. I think it started after a trip to the Swiss Family Robinson exhibit at Disney World. I thought I grew out of that phase, and then I saw this: How beautiful is the Yellow Tree House in New Zealand? I’d much rather spend time in there than in the tree tent we posted about back in 2007. The Yellow Tree House was designed by Pacific Environment Architects around a huge redwood tree. It’s actually not a house, but a restaurant born out of a marketing promotion for New Zealand Yellow Pages. Either way, I’d love to walk around in there. –Erica P.
Images via CubeMe
Men can be famously difficult to shop for, and Father’s Day seems to be the most challenging of all holidays. But I spent quite some time poking around the web (and some polling of the men in my life) and came up with a few fun ideas for dads, all at $50 or less. –Megan B.
Does your dad enjoy a nice glass of Glenfiddich on the rocks? Then maybe he’d love these Single Malt Scotch chocolate bars by Los Angeles confectioner BonBon Bar. At six bars for $30, maybe he’d even be willing to share!
If Dad’s more of a sharp-dressed man (like my father-in-law) the cool, chrome “Country Uncle” shave set (top photo) may be a good fit. It comes with a badger hair brush, chrome handled cartridge razor, and chrome stand. Get it here (also available in red) for $50.
My dad was a guy who spent a LOT of time under the hood of a car – I bet he would have gotten a kick out of this SquidBrite Light by Stanley. It’s a rechargeable LED worklight with flexible magnetic arms meant to tackle even the most unforgiving situations. Heck, I’d like a few of these for myself — they could make a great reading light, too! Available on Amazon for $29.99.
How about giving your tech-challenged dad the gift of music? Since Apple released its new voice controlled iPod Shuffle, second-generation models can be had for a mere fraction of their original cost. Then load it up for him with some of his favorite old tunes — audio books from the library could work well, too.
Urban Outfitters is also a surprising source of some great gifts on the cheap. If you’re looking for the perfect accessory for Dad’s new outdoor wood-fired pizza oven, may I suggest the Pizza Boss? It’s just $18. If he’s more of a delivery-with-an-ice-cold-bottle-of-suds guy, maybe this cast iron Handyman Bottle Opener ($28) would suffice.
About a year ago or so ago, I read about a Pyrex museum in the little Kitsap County town of Bremerton, WA. Being obsessed with the vintage glassware, I made it a goal of mine to make the trip out there — a mere hourlong ferry ride from Seattle. The “museum” itself is more of a mini museum, just two small rooms attached to an art gallery. The walls are lined floor to ceiling with vibrantly patterned bowls, casseroles, and butter dishes — I felt like a kid in a candy store. Artist Amy Burnett started the museum to display her amazing collection of Pyrex, which to her represents “what America is all about.” She had a few vintage pieces for sale in the gift shop. And even though this museum is tiny, it apparently attracts visitors from all over the country — one visitor while I was there had driven all the way up from California! The Pyrex Museum at the Amy Burnett Gallery is located at 408 Pacific Ave., Bremerton, WA. –Megan B.