She thought they were renovating the kitchen, he worked with a Seattle company on a bigger surprise

30 years into their marriage and nearly 20 years in the same house, Alvin and Joanne were ready for a refresh — not the marriage, Alvin emphasizes.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long! We still feel like newlyweds who got married yesterday,” he says.

But the house was starting to feel a little dated, and the couple heard from a friend that Granite Transformations did really great work. As a former interior designer Joanne took the lead on most decisions, and then Alvin came up with a plan to celebrate their love at the same time.

“I said honey, I don’t think we can afford to do all this, and convinced her to postpone the fireplace and bathroom renovations. But of course in my head I thought ‘I’m going to make sure we get this done.”

Alvin worked with Granite Transformations to orchestrate a surprise, and they completed the bathroom and fireplace renovations while Joanne was away working as a flight attendant.

“The crew from Granite Transformations were great about working on the surprise. They’d bring paperwork to the school where I volunteer, separated invoices to keep things secret — things like that.”

Gorgeous transformation

Alvin emphasizes that his wife was the decision-maker for all the gorgeous design details, and he just said, ‘yes dear.’ But if he didn’t know her preferences, how did he pull together the surprise?

“The fireplace matches the marbled countertops in the kitchen, so that was a no-brainer,” Alvin says, and Joanne had already started to pick things out for the bathroom before they put the project on hold. “I said why don’t you put all your top picks in the folder for later on? And then I took all that to Granite Transformations.”

FURTHER READING: Your easy-clean kitchen never looked so good!

The Seattle Japanese Garden turns 60 with fitting testaments to rebirth and resilience

THE SEATTLE JAPANESE GARDEN, a 3.5-acre public garden within Washington Park Arboretum, is celebrating a very special milestone: It’s turning 60. It takes 60 years to cycle through the Chinese zodiac calendar. In Japan, the occasion is called kanreki and is celebrated as a return to childhood, a rebirth. “This auspicious anniversary seems especially fitting for our garden, which is constantly renewing,” says Jessa Gardner, Seattle Japanese Garden Programs Manager.

Development of the garden, one of the most notable Japanese gardens outside Japan, was a collaborative effort between the Arboretum Foundation and Tokyo government officials in the 1950s. Working from site photos and a topographical map, plans emerged from a team of experienced Japanese designers for an Edo-style stroll garden — a landscape to be experienced from within. A storytelling garden with footsteps revealing a succession of landscape elements and views depicting nature, literature and art. The garden, which opened to the public on June 5, 1960, is managed in partnership by Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Arboretum Foundation.

The garden was designed and built around a traditional teahouse and roji (tea garden) donated to Seattle in 1959 by the people of Tokyo. The structure, which burned in 1973, was reconstructed in 1981 by a Hiroshima-born local craftsman hired to replicate the original teahouse. The new teahouse, named Shoseian (“Arbor of the Murmuring Pines”), opened that spring. Today, the Seattle Japanese Garden hosts one of the most robust tea ceremony programs in North America.

Due to COVID-19, a series of planned celebratory events marking this significant moment in the garden’s history has been rescheduled or shifted online, with rich historical content posting to the garden’s website (, blog and daily updates on various social media channels. As of mid-August, the garden was open to visitors on a