Skagit Valley Tulips

March 31, 2010

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs from April 1st – 30th this year.  I drove up there this week in order to beat the crowds.  There is nothing like seeing tulip fields in bloom. Those ribbons of bright color are so cheerful even on a gray day.

Workers in the late-blooming daffodil fields

Field of red tulips in the Skagit Valley

Ribbons of color: Skagit Valley tulip fields

Rows of red tulips

Tractor and tulips


Flying Kites

March 30, 2010

Kite flying at Gasworks Park in Seattle

Launching a kite at Gasworks Park

Launching a kite at Gasworks Park

Dragon kite

“Tomorrow when the wind is high,
I’ll build a kite to ride the sky!”
     — Rowena Bastin Bennett

Seattle’s Best Bakery

March 29, 2010

Sign for Cafe Besalu in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle

I got an e-mail from my sister and brother-in-law in Wisconsin advising me that the best bakery in Seattle was Cafe Besalu.  Well, I’d never heard of the place.  How did two Wisconsinites/Wisconsinners know about this Seattle bakery?  While flying home from Texas recently, Dick had read about Cafe Besalu in his in-flight magazine.

I made note of the bakery, and when I was out running errands recently, I decided to check it out.  When I drove by at noon on a Saturday, and saw a line of people out the door, I knew I had found the right place.  I drove around the block to find a parking spot, and then I joined the line.  It took 15 minutes before I departed with my ham-and-Swiss-cheese pastry to go, and the line never got shorter the entire time I was there.

The pastry was delicious and met my (high) expectations.  I don’t know whether Cafe Besalu gets my vote for “best” bakery — Seattle has a lot of good bakeries, and I haven’t sampled all of them yet.  So I’ll reserve my final judgment. 

But I am thankful to my sister and brother-in-law for turning me on to a new eating place.  If you ever come to visit us, Margaret and Dick, I’ll treat you to breakfast at the Cafe Besalu.

The line outside Cafe Besalu

Customers looking at the pastry case, Cafe Besalu

Through the window, Cafe Besalu

Reading The Letters of E. B. White

“In a letter, speech becomes everyday literature.”
     — Thomas Moore, Soul Mates

My oldest sister and I still correspond regularly by mail.  I look forward to her newsy letters in my mailbox.  I prefer letters to telephone calls. 

If you feel nostalgic for letters, I recommend Letters of E. B. White Revised Edition, edited by Dorothy Lobrano Guth and Martha White, 2006.  E. B. White was a master letter writer.  He is down to earth, but wry and funny.  He says of himself, “I discovered a long time ago that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the heart, the inconsequential but near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity or grace.  As a reporter, I was a flop, because I always came back laden not with facts about the case, but with a mind full of the little difficulties and amusements I had encountered in my travels.”

White wrote for the New Yorker, but he was a country boy at heart.  I knew of him as the author or three delightful children’s books, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Charlotte’s Web. 

Reading White’s letters goes a long way toward satisfying my desire for snail mail.  His are as good, or better, than letters from my real family!

How to Bloom

March 27, 2010

Orange fritillary


I was driving what I hoped would be a shortcut through residential streets to Fremont Avenue (it wasn’t), when I saw these flowers blooming in a parking strip.  I couldn’t recall seeing flowers like this before, so I pulled over to take some photographs.  No sooner had I stepped out of the car, when I was greeted by name!  I was parked in front of the house of one of our Greenwood Library patrons and knitting aficionados.  She told me the flowers were fritillaries.

How to Bloom
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I endlessly marvel at you, blissful ones — at your demeanor,
the way you bear your vanishing adornment with timeless purpose.
Ah, to understand how to bloom: then would the heart be carried
beyond all milder dangers, to be consoled in the great one.

Stir-Fried Dandelions

March 26, 2010

A handful of dandelion roots gleaned from the weeding

Stir-fried dandelion roots

I found a recipe for Stir-Fried Dandelions in Plant Seed, Pull Weed by Geri Larkin.  It’s no trouble for me to forage for dandelions.  They would grow rampant in our lawn if I did not attack them each spring.  I decided to try the recipe after my first weeding session this year.

The stir-fried roots may look like worms, but they tasted delicious.  I’ll make them again.

Stir-Fried Dandelions
from Plant Seed, Pull Weed by Geri Larkin

2 – 3 handfuls of cleaned dandelion roots, sliced like tiny carrot sticks
4 Tbsp sesame oil (or Canola)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
5 cloves garlic, shopped
1 small onion, chopped into thin slices
1/4 c sesame seeds (I did not have these, so omitted them)

Steam roots until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and saute in the sesame oil with the garlic, onions and pepper.  Add the sesame seeds at the end, when everything is glistening and hot.

Serve over long, thin buckwheat noodles or rice or couscous.

Tomorrow's lunch!

The Martha Stewart in Me

March 25, 2010

New treatment over the dining room door

Garland of paper beads and buttons, dyed egg, and paper bunnies

Bunny ornament, silver balls, and garland of paper beads and buttons

I don’t do as much seasonal decorating as I did when my daughter was small.  But this year I created a little point of interest above our dining room door.  I simply tacked up a horizontal branch, and then decorated it with a few handmade things:  some blown-out eggs that were then dyed, some paper bunnies, and a garland strung with paper beads, buttons, and silver balls.  Simple, but festive.