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Holland America Tulip Festival

Walking the u-pick tulip field with Chloe

Have you ever been to a tulip festival? Chloe and I came upon one by chance yesterday. We were a few hours into our homeward journey from a friend’s house north of Seattle and were more than ready to stretch our legs. This festival was at the Holland America Bulb Farm in Woodland, Washington. Such a sight! So many colors and so many gorgeous varieties. I’ve seen pictures of masses of blooms, but to see it in person…

smelling the bright pink tulips

This was our first tulip farm experience. We stayed about an hour, enough to browse the garden gifts, sample some “deep fried popcorn”, sniff some different varieties and wander among the u-pick area to select the stems we wanted to take home. Of course, I also took a lot of photos. While most of our drive had been rainy, the sun just happened to come out when we arrived. For the record, I did not alter the color of these photos at all. They were truly that rich and vibrant against the gray intensity of the sky.

In the colorful tulip field

smelling the yellow tulips

I’m so glad we took the opportunity to stop. It is so easy to focus on the destination, and not take time to savor the journey. A fitting and memorable reminder to “stop and smell the roses” (- er, tulips). Don’t you agree?

 


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Scandinavian Midsummer Festival


Traditional Handmade Wooden Clogs

On Saturday we headed to Astoria to check out the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival (found via Greenclogs). I like any excuse to visit Astoria, located in the far northwestern corner of Oregon, where the wide Columbia River meets the Pacific. I love its history and Victorian homes, seeing the huge ships and smelling the salty sea air. At the festival we sampled krumbkake, prune tarts and krab kakor (nordic crab cake in a sour cream dill sauce, wrapped in puff pastry), browsed the boutique stalls where I picked up a jar of chocolate hazelnut butter and enjoyed a performance from an honest to goodness yodeler. We didn’t stay very long, because I wanted to spend some time in town, but it was plenty of time to get a glimpse into that proud and wonderful heritage.

Chloe in wooden clog boat

1. Flags flowing over the fairground walkway  2. A platter of krumbkake
3. Chloe playing dress up  4. Chloe checking out the giant wooden clog
5. Hand carved traditional wooden wedding clogs


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Moon Festival & Mooncakes

mooncake

A mung bean mooncake made by a local bakery, purchased at Uwajimaya

Today Asians around the world celebrate the Moon Festival (or Mid-Autumn Festival), a celebration of togetherness and the abundance of the summer’s harvest. The exact date changes from year to year, and in 2007 it falls on September 25.

To celebrate, I picked up three of the traditional pastries, called mooncakes, made specifically for this holiday. Each round cake is about the size of my palm and a little over an inch thick, with an imprint on the top. The imprints vary, but common ones include the chinese character for longevity or harmony, flowers, a rabbit, the moon, or a woman on the moon.

Held within the cake’s almost paper-thin crust are several traditional, sweet and dense fillings. I decided to go with a lotus paste, a red bean paste and a sweet mung bean. The later is my favorite, probably because my mother, who is Asian, has made another kind of pastry with this filling since I was a child. The most curious part of a mooncake, though, is that they usually contain at least one whole salted duck egg yolk in the center. The yolk symbolizes the full moon, but as much as I like the idea, I personally don’t like to eat that part.

two mooncakes

A mung bean mooncake (foreground) and a red bean mooncake (background)

The traditional custom is to cut the cake into quarters to share with friends and family, and to serve it with tea. More information about the customs and stories associated with the Moon Festival can be found here.

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