By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Love Spring

My garden bursts into a frenzy of blooming in April. The fern-like plant with the pink flowers is our native Pacific bleeding heart. The tall stems of tiny yellow flowers is another native--fringecup. The Skagit Indians pounded fringecup, boiled it and drank the tea for any kind of sickness, especially lack of appetite, not a remedy I’m ever likely to be in need of. The bluebells and not-yet-flowering iris are not Pacific Northwest natives, but isn’t the blue beautiful? I have a sea of blue washing all through the yard and garden. The bluebells are borderline invasive, but I love them anyway.
Plants play an important role in the settings of my novels. Some reviewers have mentioned how they felt they were really a part of the scene when they read my books. You can read excerpts of the novels and the reviews on my Web site:
Lilacs are special to me because I associate them with my childhood in Missouri. My grandmother had huge purple and white lilac bushes, big enough to climb inside and hide. My mother has large lilacs now, too. My lavender lilac doesn’t get enough sun, so it’s rather stunted, but it still produces the lovely familiar fragrance that transports me back to my tomboy skinned-knee days.
Azaleas grow on both sides of the front steps. What a glorious color!
I planted the dianthus last summer in an old watering bucket. It came back this spring with a new round of pretty little pink flowers. I bought pots and pots of dianthus last spring to decorate the tables for a garden party in honor of my daughter’s wedding. My daughter and son-in-law will celebrate their first anniversary May 5. I think the return of the dianthus must be a good sign for a successful marriage.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Street Festival

The Cambodians threw a party yesterday, the 5th Annual White Center Cambodian New Year Street Festival. I’m not Cambodian, but I felt welcome.

It was a small event for a street festival--only one block--but the fairgoers more than made up with enthusiasm for any lack in size. I only spent a few hours there late in the afternoon, but the party was an all-day affair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and included music, dance, contests and food.

I made it to the festival in time to see the banana-eating contest, just the very end of the male round but early enough to cheer for all of the female contestants. The audience was whooping it up when I arrived; they clearly thought this was hilarious entertainment.

The stage was backed by a large painting of Ankgor Wat in shades of purple, pink and orange with a banner of blue and red stripes behind the painting. Together, the two made a creative facsimile of the Cambodian flag, the only flag that incorporates a building in its design. I got that bit of information from the Cambodian Cultural Museum and Killing Fields Memorial site. I vaguely knew there was a Cambodian museum in White Center, but I’ve never been there even though I’ve lived in this community for 17 years. Shame on me. I will definitely visit the museum and memorial soon.

Next came three rounds of hacky sack competition to see who could keep the footbag in the air with the greatest number of consecutive kicks. Then the winners of each round competed against each other. That worked great for one little boy who survived the elimination round with only 5 kicks because everyone in his group was a dud. I sort of lost track, but I think the grand champion, who received an elaborate trophy, won with around 50 kicks, a combined score from the elimination and final rounds.

The MC for both events, banana eating and hacky sack, was great. He explained rules and kept up a running commentary in both the Cambodian language, Khmer, and English. When he was counting the hacky sack kicks, though, he mostly used the Cambodian language. I ought to know how to count in Khmer by now, but I can’t remember beyond "one," phonetically something like "moo-uhy."

The entertainment for the last hour or so I spent at the festival was music. The MC pushed a very large pink pig--for 2007, the year of the pig--out onto the pavement to preside over the dance floor. A lovely dancer invited my husband and me to join in, but we declined, not having the flexible wrists and fingers required for the elaborate hand movements. A couple of different bands and several singers performed--all very interesting but way too loud for my middle-aged ears.

To put some distance between me and the musicians, I checked out the vendors and decided to sample papaya salad, something I’ve wanted to try ever since I saw "The Scent of Green Papaya." It was delicious: long shreds of green papaya mixed with tomatoes, peanuts and a hot and spicy dressing; however, there was a mystery ingredient--crab leg shells. No crab that I could detect, just bits of shell and one small leg with no crab in it. I don’t know if the shell was there to provide flavor for the dressing similar to the way you can boil shrimp shells to enrich seafood stock or if I was just unlucky to get only shell and no crab. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed the salad in spite of having to pick through it carefully to avoid crunching down on rock-hard shell fragments.

It was really a great festival. I had more fun than I have at lots of larger, more elaborate street fairs. I’m already looking forward to the 6th Annual White Center Cambodian New Year Street Festival. Maybe it will be 2 blocks long next year.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tour Notes

My husband and I returned Wednesday from a driving tour to visit far-flung family. According to MapQuest, the trip involved 52 hours and 36 minutes of driving time to cover a distance of 3,424.43 miles. I did all of the driving. My husband did a lot of snoozing. This driving feat was a personal triumph for me. I’d always thought I couldn’t drive more than four or five hours per day, but it turns out I like to drive longer distances and eight hours isn’t too difficult at all.

We started our odyssey March 12 and made a big triangle, traveling from Seattle to Gooding, ID, on to Salt Lake City, then to Albuquerque and finally to Reseda, CA, in the San Fernando Valley, before heading back home. We went through eight states and saw spectacular, ever-changing scenery. The geographic diversity in the U.S. is truly awesome.

Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, ID. The picture at the top of the page is the Snake River just beyond the falls. At 212 feet, Shoshone is higher than Niagara Falls and is the most powerful falls in the Northwest.

The red cliffs in Utah and New Mexico are stunning. I’d visited Arches National Park on a previous vacation, but the photos here I took at rest stops along the highway.
We visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. This is a wonderful museum for learning about the Pueblo Indian people and the nineteen pueblos in New Mexico. Photos, artifacts, dances, interactive exhibits and modern examples of art, jewelry, basketry and pottery instruct, and you can eat breakfast or lunch at the Pueblo Harvest Café for a taste of the Pueblo and Spanish food that has come to be known as Native New Mexican Cuisine.

Listening to Amauta in Albuquerque’s Old Town plaza was fun and relaxing. In the it’s-a-small-world category, the original founders of Amauta were from Seattle.

Our sons and our fantabulous grandchildren at the last stop on our trip.

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