Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Say what? A Floating Farmer's Market?

Seattle is a funny place and continues to amaze me with its elite status of all things unique including: recycling programs, the number of bike commuters, community-supported agriculture programs, backyard gardens, urban chickens, farmer's markets and, now, a floating farmer's market.

Yes, you heard me right, Puget Sound is host to a new concept surrounding a floating farmer's market aboard the Historic Virginia V - which delivers fresh produce each Thursday to a Lake Union dock. The concept is simple: allowing local island farms, along with familiar Seattle farm vendors, to reach waterfront communities and provide consumers with sustainable produce. It also revitalizes and gives new life to old boats who normally wouldn't be in use. Re-purposed at its finest! FarmBoat launched the first boat with visions of eventually operating three vessels on a regular route as far north as the San Juan Islands, all the way down to Olympia, WA.
This floating farmer's market interested me enough to grab my little family and head off toward the new South Lake Union Park to find out for myself just what this place was all about.

It was a cold, but pleasant enough day when we arrived to board the Virginia V farmer's market. A "mate" happily escorted us on the boat into the arms of Full Circle Farms where they happily displayed their winter crop selection. We wandered around the first floor while my almost 3-year-old took off looking out every window. The old boat smelled as it should - saltwater wrestling with a hint of fuel - a smell I've come to appreciate. I took a deep breath and continued on; climbing up the shiny, wooden stairs to the second story where more vendors waited. We were happy to see our favorite bread company - Tall Grass Bakery -  and quickly snagged a classic baguette and molasses cookie. They had their popular pumpernickel and multi-grain breads for sale along with a seasonal "Stollen" bread - a traditional German Christmas bread made of fruit and covered with sugar, but an expensive option at $20 a loaf.

Tall Grass Bakery vendor.

We made our way to Pete's Perfect Toffee -a handmade toffee recipe carried down from the vendor's grandmother and picked up a small pack to nibble on while we wrapped up our shopping. We checked out a few other items until we concluded our market visit by buying apples, pears and carrots for next to nothing: apples two for $1, carrots eight for $1 and a large pear for two bucks.

The experience was cool - although small with limited produce - but very unique. I think it will only gain momentum as it grows. It's a fabulous place to take out-of-town guests or for just a little outing with the family.

The regular run will continue at the South Lake Union Park every Thursday 11am-3pm in March. (December 23 was the last winter run). Support the new concept by checking it out for yourself. For more information and to sign up for the "Fresh News" mailing list visit

A cool FarmBoat produce box.

Tall Grass Bakery's "Stollen" holiday bread.

Full Circle Farms winter crop.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Second use, please.

Now here me out, I have a thing about buying used goods. I may be slightly obsessed about it, but, I'm very fulfilled when I get a deal and know it wasn't purchased brand-new. I wish I was perfect - far from it - but I genuinely give a crap about the environment and the waste we put into it.

I realize other folks don't have this desire and I try to hide my disappointment. But, I admit I have a few new items littering the house I wish I didn't have, but, I'd dare guess the spectrum sways toward the used side in my home than new - and you can quote me on that.

I just want to offer a few suggestions to save money buying used while limiting your impact on the environment in return. A Win-Win!

If you have (or are having) kids, take this simple advice when looking for your basic needs, such as strollers, joggers, changing tables, toys, blankets and clothes:
  • Search your local Want-Ads (Craigslist, etc...) for practically anything you could want for a new baby, growing toddler or school-aged kid. Why pay full price when you can get someone's seconds that are almost new!
  • Search Garage Sales in your area. You will be amazed at what people give away. I just happened to stop by a garage sale on Capitol Hill and got two, like-new Stearns life vests for $5. Yes, two!
  • Take advantage of Consignment Shops. Turn your old children's clothing and toys into cash (or credit) by taking them to your local shop to consign. I carry about $60-$80 credit for used goods at my local consignment shop in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. Think about how much I can buy with $60 in  children's used clothes and accessories.
  • Saturate your friends and family by asking what items they no longer need and would like to donate (or loan) to you. You save money - and the Earth - by borrowing used items relevant to your situation. I am happy to say there is not one thing (besides some toys and clothes) in my son's room that isn't used - and his room looks sharp! Don't get me started, but even his blanket he uses every day was used 12-years ago! Love it!
  • Get involved in local Yahoo! Mom Groups designed to connect with your neighborhood. It's an amazing resource for buying used. I can't tell you how much I utilize my own group for just about anything.
Men's blazer turned into a hip purse.
Take advantage of smart savings when updating your wardrobe or home accessories:
  • Scour your second-hand stores. Man, when I worked on Mercer Island - an affluent suburban of Seattle - I shopped their local second-hand store every day on my lunch hour. Say no more, I was looking SMOOTH and had so many brand-named clothes for a few dollars each. Take advantage of the ultra-hip, second-hand stores - especially in college towns and cities - where you'll find all the latest styles but at half (or more) of the price.
  • This may be crossing the "Eco" line because it's new merchandise, but a great way to save money is utilizing companies "overstock" sections. Shop stores like Marshalls, Ross, TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, and - on most company websites - overstock/clearance links guiding you to pillows, sheets and clothes galore at a fraction of the original. I received three bathing suits from Land's End this summer for around $10-$13 each - shipping included!
  • Online shopping has never been easier. This is a dream come true for me because I'm not a big shopper and love the convenience of shopping from home, but I don't like paying for shipping. So, I always search online for Free Shipping promotional codes. These are money savers and I don't know if you've noticed, but I kinda like that.
  • Clothes you no longer wear can be recycled into hip pillow cases or purses. You can take advantage of all that unique fabric from all your crazy Hawaiian or Mexican getaway purchases to update into pillows for a couch or bedroom, or use your men's blazers to turn into a hip purse. You can either do-it-yourself or ask your local dry cleaner who provides this service for a fee.