Licensed cheese artisan Julie Steil and her husband Rob once crafted cheeses as a part-time hobby, until encouragement from those who had tasted the results prompted them to turn the delectable pastime into a full-time passion. Today, the Steils manage their own herd of goats and cows who lead pampered lives on the couple's 20-acre farm, where a diet of alfalfa, blackberry thickets, and chocolate syrup yield better-tasting milk. The Steils create different cheeses in small batches, ranging from a semihard cheese bathed in raspberry port to a raw milk tomme bathed in Naughty Nellie ale from Pike Brewery. Landing River Valley Cheese on Sunset magazine's list of the Top 100 Cultural Trends Shaping the West, Julie and Rob also share their love of fromage fashioning at hands-on cheese-making classes, where attendees can learn to create their own wheels of fresh and aged cheeses, instead of relying on the questionable quality of the cheeses peddled by door-to-door sales cows.
Cedar Grove Equestrian Center’s experienced instructors corral up to five budding riders for one-hour introductory lessons, held seven days a week. Learn to brush, tack, and ride an equine within the center’s spacious, covered arena, surrounded by lush, verdant scenery and gangs of spying rodeo clowns. Cedar Grove’s friendly steeds help beginners gain confidence and perfect their horse dialect, and the center’s small class sizes allow for personalized feedback. Helmets and boots are provided at no charge.
The sound specialists at Bellevue American Music help outfit local bands and aspiring rock stars with musical equipment from brands such as Fender, Korg, Yamaha, Roland, and Bogner in the bright, open showroom. Learning to play the intro song to Hogan's Heroes from sheet music is much easier with an On Stage XCG4 guitar stand ($13.49) and artillery of D'Addario EXL120 strings ($5.99). Hone vocal skills outside of showers with an On Stage mic stand ($29.99), or squelch creative differences with the raucous roar of the Peavey Vypyr 15 amp ($99.99). Those eager to accessorize the recent growth of their folk-indie beard may nab a Lee Oskar harmonica ($38.99) and settle into their tax accountant's stoop for an impromptu show.
When assembled correctly, a floral arrangement acts much like a poem. Each flower is a different verse, and together, the vibrant blooms convey messages of love, congratulations, or sympathy. The local florists at Finishing Touch Florist & Gifts make for excellent poets, each one fluent in a centriels-old floral vocabulary. Whenever a customer steps into their shop looking to celebrate an anniversary or a newborn child, the talented florists can deftly pullout a daisy, which represents innocence, a fern to express sincerity, or a rose, which of course conveys deep passion. The florists can arrange this last symbolic bloom into more than two dozen creations, with hues of red, pink, white, and other colors.
Once ready, these bouquets can add their fresh colors and scents to romantic evenings or perhaps even a wedding. However, sometimes the only reason to celebrate is a change in the seasons. Look to the shop's storefront window for a rotating lineup of flowers that herald the coming of spring, summer, winter, fall, and the secret fifth season only three people know about.
The purveyors behind Bellevue Art & Frame and The Toy Place have been honing their artistic eyes and skilled craftsmanship since 1962, when they launched Bucket & Brush—their original paint and home-decorating store. Through the transpiring decades, they elevated Bellevue Art & Frame into a full-fledged behemoth of all things artistic and creative, compiling a diverse collection of art supplies including paintbrushes, clay, and stationery. They work alongside skilled frame designers, who enlist high-tech software to help customers to visualize what custom enclosures will look like when filled with a family portrait or Jackson Pollock’s baby bib.
In 2007, Bellevue Art & Frame opened The Toy Place to meet the needs of the budding artists who kept frequenting the children’s arts-and-crafts department. Inside the toy emporium, tots peruse a bevy of specialty toys, books, and games in a kid-centric space that also hosts frequent art workshops for little ones. Craftspeople of all ages can head in for adult classes, during which knowledgeable artists and sentient _Mona Lisa_s divulge wisdom in such techniques as calligraphy and mat cutting. The shop also organizes regular community events, including gallery showcases that spotlight local artists.
Tucked in the rustic overgrowth beside the creek that inspired its name, Covington Creek Nursery spans 5 perfectly manicured acres adorned year-round with seasonal, local, and rare flowers, herbs, and trees. Staffers help guests wandering through the greenery, offering tips on bird-feeder care, how to maintain unusual plants such as Japanese maples, or what to do if trees become infested with bad-mannered wood nymphs. They also invite guests to hands-on classes and events such as Easter-egg hunts and vertical-gardening how-to sessions.