Temple Square flowers

I don't think you can beat (or at least, not locally) Red Butte Garden for daffodils, but a week or so ago when I met Rachael at Temple Square (in the freezing rain, of course) we could see even through the grey drizzle that the tulips (and other flowers) there were going to be gorgeous. So we prioritized a return visit as soon as possible. It didn't disappoint. The color combinations are perfect---I love a rainbow-colored flower bed! SO pretty.
There were lots of interesting varieties of tulips

More daffodils

You might think we'd have had our fill of daffodils. But if so, you underestimate us. Or should I say, "me." I just don't tire of them . . . not yet, anyway. And the children don't ever say no to a chance to run around outside!
The colors of this hyacinth remind me of popcorn. Yum!


Coconut and Green Lentil Soup

I like legumes. I make dal quite often and we do like our lentil soup. Recently I found a recipe on this lovely blog (enjoy her soup picture; it's beautiful) which looked spectacular.  And it was! It's so fast and easy, and adaptable! It's a refreshing update to the flavors of my current dal. It's a bit curry-y, but lighter; and spicy, and  so warm and fragrant . . . you'll just have to try it. I loved the coconut milk and the just-soft-enough green lentils, but most amazing of all was the blend of spices: cardamom (one of my favorite spices), turmeric, cinnamon, cloves. The carmelizing onions and the simmering lentils and the spices in the hot butter made the house smell AMAZING. While I was in Seattle I stopped at a spice store and I went around sniffing everything happily before picking out several new things to try. One of things I got was some qualat daqqua (Tunisian 5-spice), which smelled right for the job, so I threw some of that in as well.

I made my soup quite thick, and cooked the lentils slightly softer, for logistical reasons (i.e. to make feeding baby-mouths easier). You could probably use more broth if you like a thinner soup. Also, this would be awesome served with naan, but any bread works well for dipping (I used my regular wheat bread this time). I'm sure it would be good with yogurt (like I serve our lentil soup) as well.

Coconut and Green Lentil Soup
(adapted from The Traveler's Lunchbox version of this book's recipe)

2 1/4 cups green lentils (or brown lentils)
9 cups vegetable or chicken broth
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon qalat daqqa (optional, of course)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of freshly-ground nutmeg
2 14-oz cans coconut milk, or to taste 

Combine the broth, lentils, turmeric, and thyme in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until lentils are as soft as you want them.

When lentils are about half-done cooking (or 10-15 minutes from when you think they'll be done), melt butter in a small skillet on high. (For extra flavor, let it cook till it foams and browns a bit before adding onions.) Add diced onion and cook for a couple minutes on high; then turn down heat and cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until onion begins to brown and caramelize. Add spices and fry for just 30 seconds or until spices are very aromatic. Scrape skillet contents into the big pot, add coconut milk, and simmer for a few more minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Serve with naan or bread for dipping.
(Hi, tiny spoon-Marilyn!)

Skagit Valley

Speaking of paradise . . . a friend of ours told us about the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington and as it happened to be the right time of year, I knew immediately that I wanted to go. It was a bit of a drive from Seattle and I figured it would be rainy and chilly and maybe the tulips wouldn't be out yet, but I still wanted to go! I just had the feeling we would love it, and (*self-congratulatory pat on back*) I was right! Apparently the volcanic soil of the Skagit Valley is great for growing bulbs, so several bulb farms (the bulbs sold on tulips.com, for example) are based there. I looked at all the festival maps and when I saw that the daffodils would be in bloom, I was so excited! (As you know, I love daffodils. Even more than tulips, maybe.) So we set out on a cloudy morning for what my aunt assured us would look "just like Switzerland." I knew Sam and my mom were mostly just indulging me in agreeing to spend a day doing this, and I appreciated it. I would plan all our trips around gardens and flower shows if I could!

We went in and out of rain showers as we drove, but by the time we reached the valley, the sun was out and the skies were blue. It was perfect (if slightly muddy). The nearby bay was gorgeous with the shifting clouds above.
Roadside picnic and trail-exploring. We stopped at a little dairy farm to buy chocolate milk and cheese. I talked to the owner's daughter who made all the cheeses, and it was fascinating. She names the cheeses after her children. I wish I had a cheese named after me!


My aunt said something interesting as we were talking the other day. She was talking about how her idea of paradise/heaven had always been a big, beautiful library full of interesting books, full of light and windows and opening onto a beautiful garden. There would be a grand piano in one corner, and there would be time---all the time she wanted---for reading those books, and when she got tired of that, walking among the flowers in the garden. "And then one day I realized," she said, "that now I have pretty much all of that. I'm living in my paradise already. I feel like I have heaven here."
It made me wonder, what is paradise for me? In some ways I think it's much like hers---books, time, sunlight (ah, perhaps this is the one she lacks? She is in Seattle, after all), flowers, music. Long, leisurely, interesting meals would definitely be on my list as well.  We did discuss how we mortals can't help imposing our human ideas on heaven, and how the real thing will probably be much different. Still, it's an interesting thought exercise: what do I love now, what do I hope to enjoy one day---and am I on the path for it?
It's a lovely existence, being in my aunt's paradise. She has such a lovely, interesting, beautiful house. There are five pianos in three different rooms, so the house was constantly full of music. I performed at their big Bach Birthday concert on Saturday, which was delightful---I love having somewhere to perform. Every night when the littlest kids were in bed, we'd go off to practice. Kay would head up to her sewing room and we'd soon hear the Bach Chorale floating down over us, and then Harold or Abraham or my mom would start up in the living room, and I'd withdraw to the studio and lose myself in practicing like I haven't done since I was in college. In the pauses I'd hear music all around me, so companionable and comforting, and even later at night we'd come back together and perform for each other---"I know something's going wrong in the memory work, and I'd rather find out about it now than later," Kay would say. It's so rewarding to play for an appreciative and musical audience, I found myself wanting to play pieces I hadn't ever performed before, inspired and feeling like my playing was elevated by the adrenaline and the company. No one wanted it to end, so we kept talking each other into just one more song, one more story. It was magical.



Sunlight coming through the "glass ceiling" (full of glass sculpture) on the bridge.

While we were in Tacoma last week, we went to a museum called the Museum of Glass.  I've long been interested in glass art (sculpture?), and Sam and I saw some Chihuly when we were in Arizona a few years ago---I loved it!  Dale Chihuly lives in the Seattle area, I believe, and had something to do with the creation of this museum.  Anyway, I wanted to go by there while we were in the vicinity, at least to see the outdoor sculptures and the glass bridge (pictured above and at bottom of post). 
After some debate (everything is expensive, of course) we decided to go into the museum as well, and I was SO glad we did! It was spectacular. This glass volcano-like structure (above) . . .


Changing our routine for a bit gives me so many things to talk about!  A few snippets from our trip to Seattle:
Terrible picture, but nice memory: Daisy enjoying her glowing fan toy in the car. We love riding in the car together; it's one of the reasons we love to go on road trips. Our kids are good travelers.

The following pictures imply, but don't show, an event that occurred between #1 and #3.  See if you can guess what it was:


Sam's art on a book fair poster! True fame.

I've been seeing a bunch of Sam's art around lately and it makes me (yes, me) feel famous.  He didn't love the way this book (above) turned out so I don't think he was as excited as I was to see it on this poster at the boys' school, but come on!  It's cool!  Look at it, right on the same shelf as . . . let's see, Darth Paper Strikes Back and Super Fan?  "It's a reading celebration!"
Daisy goes for Super Fan

Neversink was one of the biggest (freelance) projects he's done so far (there were a bunch of interior illustrations, a map, a frontispiece, chapter headings, and so forth) so it was really awesome to get some finished copies in the mail a few weeks ago.  Sam was pleased to have something to page through and heft (usually his art ends up more . . . intangible), and I just can't stop looking at it.  I know how many hours it took, but the finished product is so beautiful, it still seems like magic.  Amazing.
Will we act out this scene whenever we pick up one of these books? Naturally, yes.  "There is a groundbreaking new work . . . ah!"

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