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Istanbul Tulip Festival

It’s not officially spring in Turkey until the tulips start to bloom… and of course, in Istanbul, this means the beginning of the annual Tulip Festival. Many people associate tulips with the Dutch, but they were actually exported there from Turkey during the time of the Ottoman Empire. You can see tulips on pottery and textile design going back centuries and you may even recognize the shape from the many tulip-shaped glasses of cay (tea) you’ll consume when you visit Turkey. Each year in Istanbul, millions of bulbs in over 160 varieties of tulips are planted in parks around the city to celebrate the beginning of spring. The most famous of these is in Emirgan Park, up the Bosphorus:

Tiptoeing through the #tulips in #Emirgan Park. ???#Istanbul #istanbulmoments #laleler #tulipfestival2017

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Istanbul Tulip Festival
April 1-30, annually

To get to Emirgan Park, you can easily catch a bus along the sea road from Besiktas or Taksim, or take the metro to 4. Levent and catch a bus from there. There’s also a ferry to and from Istinye, within walking distance of the park. If the ferry times fit with your schedule, you can use this to avoid getting stuck in Istanbul traffic and to get a mini Bosphorus cruise at the same time!

The event is free and open to the public. I’d recommend packing along a little snack or purchasing one from vendors near the park and enjoying a picnic with a view of the grounds and the Bosphorus. If you’re there at sunset, there are also beautiful views of the bridges lit up near the water.

If Emirgan is too far (though it’s worth the trip!) you can also check out the tulips in parks like Gulhane Park just outside of Topkapi Palace or Goztepe Park in Kadikoy on the Asian side of the city. For the past few years, they’ve also put up the world’s largest carpet of tulips in Sultanahmet just outside the entrance to the Hagia Sofia. There’s a viewing platform for getting your best photos and admiring the beautiful design:

Behold, the largest carpet of #tulips in the world! ??? #laleler #istanbulmoments #sultanahmet #spring #ilkbahar

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>> You can see other photos from my visit to the Tulip Festival at Emirgan Park and Gulhane Park here.
>> For more information on visiting Istanbul, check out my Turkey Destination Guide.

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Where to Eat in Downtown Seattle


For me, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Seattle – no, not Nirvana, grunge, or even good beer – is fresh seafood. Sure, it’s a bit corny that the fishmongers in Pike Place Market still put on their show for the tourists where they toss around huge salmon like a football, however it still a great place for a stroll. It is also a working market and you can find great deals on seasonal produce, craft items, and of course seafood in the area around Downtown Seattle. This trip, I was mostly near the Washington State Convention Center area, so I wanted to share a few spots that we enjoyed relatively close to that area.

>> If you have a bit more time and inclination, I also highly recommend a trip out to Fremont for an alternative view of the Seattle skyline. If for nothing else, you MUST stop at Paseo for a sandwich, but if you have a few hours to kill, I’d recommend to make an afternoon of it.

Toulouse Petit (Lower Queen Anne)

Crabcake Benedict at Toulouse Petit
Crabcake Benedict at Toulouse Petit

When I asked for Seattle recommendations, my Instagram friend, Mark (chef/owner at Full Moon Cafe in Hilo) recommended I try a restaurant called Toulouse Petit in Lower Queen Anne. I didn’t realize it until my last day but the restaurant was only blocks from my hotel! Luckily, a fellow AWP attendee from Hawaii, Brenda, was down to meet up there for brunch before I had to catch my train for Portland.

I’m so thankful that we made it, although I wish I had time to go back for happy hour! First, their menu is enormous. We went with the two most popular items recommended by our server – Dungeness Crab Benedict for me and Duck Confit Hash for Brenda. An Instagram post of the benedict got over 60 likes within the first three hours, and it tasted just as good (if not better) than it looked!

Weekday mornings they have a breakfast happy hour where you can save $3-5 per plate on most breakfast items. Their regular happy hour boasts a small plates menu with over 50 items ranging from $4 to $8. A full bar with great food makes it a popular spot, and even at 10am there was a 20 minute wait. We had to speak a bit louder to hear each other over the lively conversations going on all around us, but overall the atmosphere was lively and fun. Highly recommended.

Toulouse Petit
601 Queen Anne Avenue N
Seattle, WA
(206) 432-9069

Plum Bistro (Capitol Hill)

Mushroom & Sweet Pepper Skillet at Plum Bistro
Mushroom & Sweet Pepper Skillet at Plum Bistro

Obviously, I’m an omnivore, but once in awhile I’m veg-curious so it was a good opportunity to head out for lunch with my friend Kim to a vegan restaurant in the Capitol Hill area to celebrate both her birthday and our time at AWP.

I ordered a breakfast skillet with panko-crusted seitan, umami-rich mushrooms and sweet red peppers, grits and a biscuit with mushroom gravy. Although the size was on the small side for its $16 price tag, it was hearty and flavorful and I did not miss the meat. We also split their signature “Mac n ‘Yease” which is made with nutritional yeast, which gives it a savory, almost nutty flavor (sort of reminds me of how you’d add nutmeg to mac & cheese) and a bit of spice to give it a kick. Yum!

Plum Bistro
1429 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 838-5333

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Cheers to Good Health!

After the glorious excess that was Birth Month, I’m finding a need to gain some balance back into my life, especially in my eating habits. I won’t lie, April was a month with some truly amazing meals shared with some of my nearest and dearest, many of which I still need to post. Starting with May, I’ve made a few changes and one of them is buying a blender and starting each day with a green smoothie.


I never thought I’d be “one of those people” who rave about juicing or smoothies. I always said I preferred to chew my vegetables rather than drink them. Plus, I love breakfast, especially savory foods like eggs and bacon. I’d read about those crazy diets where people have nothing but juice and shake my head. I also felt that I wouldn’t be able to give up having some kind of carbs for breakfast – usually some toast, rice, or other starch helped me to stay full until lunch.

A few of my friends had been juicing (or blending) and I got to try a glass of juice that actually started to change my mind when staying with a pro-juicing friend in February. I don’t remember all the ingredients but the key flavors that stuck out to me were some that were surprising – beets, bell pepper, cucumber and garlic. Garlic! It sounded awful but there was plenty in there to balance out with some sweetness, including apple, so the raw garlic ended up just giving it a bit of a zing and a more savory flavor.


Still not sold, I started asking some of my other friends for their juicing recipes and looking online for more savory juice blends. I checked into the price of a Vitamix and recoiled at the sticker shock, pushing the idea of juicing wayyyy to the back of my mind. At the time, I was still saving up for my birthday treat to myself – Vintage Cave.

Yet what finally pushed me over the edge was a friend who I know to be quite caffeine-addicted who casually mentioned swapping out some of her daily coffee for juice and feeling more energetic. That made a believer out of me! I knew I wanted a blender (like Vitamix) rather than a juicer, because I didn’t like the idea of removing so much fiber from the fruits and veggies. I know some people prefer juicing because it’s easier to drink or tastes better with no pulp, but I honestly don’t mind. What eventually sold me was reading the reviews on a Nutribullet. The $100 price tag was the perfect investment in my health.


After almost a month of having a green smoothie for breakfast every day, I can say that I do feel more energy and I think starting the day with a cup of fruits and veggies really does help me to make healthier choices throughout the day – I’m starting to crave more veggies and less meat or carbs. Rather than dieting or cutting things out, I’m working on adding in healthy options into my lifestyle and this has been a great start. Yes, I still indulge here and there, but I feel less guilty when I do!


My favorite smoothie starts off with kale. I find that if I cut it up, wash/dry and then store it in a bag in the fridge that it easily can last a week and a half – yet it never lasts me that long. A big bunch at the farmers market usually costs $2 or $3 and is enough to use for salads and smoothies all week. After a big handful of kale, I add a few veggies – cucumber, bell pepper, beets, a bunch of mint leaves. A piece of ginger for some bite. Cut up watermelon stored in the freezer to use as “ice cubes” and fruits like tangerine, mango, or berries. I love that I can sneak in healthy superfoods like sea asparagus, soaked chia seeds, etc. I try to keep my ingredients as colorful as possible going in. The Nutribullet comes with three different cups so I always prep more than one and store them in the fridge, so there’s always one ready. Cleanup is just rinsing the cup and blade out in the sink, and since I’m blending (not juicing) there isn’t a lot of pulp to throw away.

It might not be for everyone, but if you’ve considered adding more fruits and veggies into your diet, I highly recommend giving green smoothies a try. Cheers to good health!

>> What about you? Have you given juicing or green smoothies a try? Got a favorite ingredient or recipe to share? Feel free to leave a comment.

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Things to do on Maui: Upcountry Farmers Market

Driving through Upcountry Maui just never gets old to me. On my last trip home, my dad took us up the back roads where we usually go running. Driving through the old Haleakala Dairy lands, I rolled down my window to take in the smell of eucalyptus and the moist scent of the rain the night before. The jacaranda trees were just starting to bloom, the purple flowers always remind me of the big tree we had in our yard growing up…

We took the scenic route for sure, but we were on a bit of a mission: to check out the new Upcountry Farmers Market.

It seems like lately it’s become trendy/hipster to shop at farmers markets and some debate the authenticity of all the “local” produce – especially when you see booths offering garlic or mainland cauliflower, things that just don’t grow we’ll in Hawaii – people start to wonder just how much is truly local. Some will also turn up their noses at the handcrafted items or the booths selling cooked to order meals and wonder where are all the farmers?

But I think there’s room for all of these things. If I can get local produce, and also the garlic I won’t have to go to the grocery store for at the same time as I pick up a beautiful ham and egg basket for breakfast and a snack for later – why not?


I grew up at my moms table at the swap meet. She was a crafter and made all kinds of things – I remember Christmas ornaments, Hawaiian print bags, cute little rubber stamps. I saw her having that rapport with her regular customers, I’ve heard people haggle. So I have an utmost respect for anyone making their living at these markets.

Sure, shopping at a farmers market can be more expensive at times (although many times its cheaper and also fresher so there’s less spoilage) but I will happily pay a couple of extra dollars for something that someone puts their heart and soul into. That’s what I’m supporting.

The Saturday Upcountry farmers market was a great example of this.

As we walked down the aisle of booths, it made my heart happy to see the camaraderie – people catching up with neighbors and friends, and passionate vendors selling their goods. A little girl squeals with delight as a baby chick is placed into get hands. A musician sets up a blues piano while another plays “When You Wish Upon A Star” on a violin.


I lingered over a beautiful lineup of pastries and the women running the booth chimed in that the lemons for their lemon tart were all from their backyard, as were the edible flowers. Isn’t it lovely?


Kula strawberries were only $3 a box, though I was tempted to go for the 2 for $5. That’s cheaper than in-store!


Farm fresh eggs…


…and Easter bunnies!


Fresh ravioli with homemade ricotta, pastas, and sauces starting at $5


My favorite new snack: fresh seaweed strips that are hand painted with a flavored macadamia nut paste (this one is shiso/ume) and then dried. Vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!


There were fresh wheatgrass shots, massage tables, feather earrings, fresh juices, and beautiful flower arrangements too. All in all, a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

Upcountry Farmers Market
Kulamalu Town Center (behind Longs)
Saturdays 7am – noon

>> For a list of the latest posts related to FOOD, click here.
>> For more on MAUI, click here.

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Latest Obsession: Paiko Hawaii

It’s an unfortunate fact that I was born lacking the green thumb gene. My grandma had a beautiful garden full of flowers, fruit and macadamia nut trees, and a huge, grassy lawn. The centerpiece of our yard was a Surinam cherry tree so large you could climb up in it, whereas most times I see it around town as a bush or shrub. She had that touch.

I, on the other hand, do not.

(But you can’t say I don’t try.)

One of the items in my 30 before 30 list was “Find a plant I can’t kill,” and I successfully grew a succulent for months until I forgot it out on the lanai for awhile and it shriveled up, all brown and sad. I had a potted cherry tomato plant that yielded maybe 10 juicy little fruit before succumbing to some sort of rot. And this year, I picked “Grow” as my word for 2013. I got a hanging plant with cheerful blue flowers to put outside my door, in December. You guessed it, dead by February.

So while I don’t always trust myself to keep a plant alive, I really really admire those who can! Enter my new obsession: Paiko.


The girls at Paiko have hand-picked a selection of flowers, succulents, air plants, and terrariums and will happily advise you on what grows best where, what’s easiest to care for, and tips to keep your plants happy and… alive. Their concept is about creating art from nature, which shows when you walk through their beautiful little space – you’ll even see vases for cut flowers and living staghorn ferns mounted on the wall. I love stopping in to pick up gifts for friends (like the cute little agave plant shown above) but haven’t yet taken the plunge into getting one for myself after the hanging plant disaster.

Bonus: they’re just a couple doors down from Taste, with a rotating lineup of vendors (like Cocina Hawaii) and around the corner from The Whole Ox. Two birds, one stone… Yet another reason to venture into Kakaako.

Paiko Hawaii
675 Auahi Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 988-2165