Astoria’s Scandanavian Festival (Oregon Coast) forgot about Estonia!

One of the great things about visiting the Oregon Coast is during the summer there are all kinds of various events held depending on where you decide to visit. The coast itself is lovely though the drive on Hwy 101 can be a bit maddening at times (just depends on where you go and what time you get there) with summer traffic in full bloom for the next few months.

But traffic congestion notwithstanding, every June in the picturesque town of Astoria, a Mid-Summer Scandinavian Festival occurs which you can check out at www.astoriascanfest.com. The event was held a couple weekends ago and while it had been a few years since we last visited, it was still worth a drive up to Astoria to spend time learning about the five main countries which the organization proudly represents through the various artisan booths, vendors and activities displayed and open to the public over the weekend of June 21 – 23 of this month.

While the main countries covered were Finland, Norway Sweden, Iceland and Denmark, I felt a bit insulted that the country where my husband is from was not included and has never been included: the country of Estonia. While people may argue that Estonia is not just a people of Scandinavian heritage, history has clearly shown that this small, independent country has been plundered and invaded by countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Germany and most recently, Russia. So while there may be a mixture of various Caucasian ethnicities, it with the Vikings that Estonian bloodlines are most notably related.

While Estonia may never ever be considered part of the Scandinavian Festival held in Astoria each year, we did find a lot of interesting booths to look at and appreciate such as lovely hand-crafted pottery, hard-carved wooden sculptures and every day household items like cookware and kitchen utensils. There were also vendors who sold clothing items, fun collectibles and throughout each day, the organization scheduled various activities throughout the weekend like a Queen’s Coronation, Icelandic Horses display and of course delicacies of sweet treats, delicious meals like the Midnight Sun Breakfast and a Viking Dinner event.

We visited on a Saturday morning but it was about a 2.5 hour drive since we reside in the Willamette Valley. By the time we got there, we missed out on the Midnight Sun Breakfast but it was OK – we had that on our first visit four years ago. This time, we wanted to browse more through all the vendor booths and discovered that there were some things my husband was able to find that normally he could only find back in Estonia: like European chocolates. Yum!

Chocolates weren’t the only kind of sweet treats there, but I was more interested in the food – the real food that they were serving. There were booths with homemade cookies, breads, crackers and other great snacks but the food plates being sold were pretty good as well. They had pastry snack “pies” which basically were like Cornish pies or similar to piroshki, the Russian equivalent except these Scandinavian pies were savory fillings like smoked salmon and cream cheese, ham and cheese or even a vegetarian option of spinach and feta cheese wrapped in a pie crust dough. Looked scrumptious. Forgot the Scandinavian word for it but they were like meat pies such as the ones pictured below.

However, we opted to share a lunch plate called the Viking Plate: Swedish meatballs, small potatoes, red cabbage with a roll. Below is kind of what we had for the Viking plate (they gave more meatballs) and they gave us two tiny little potatoes (mashed would’ve been better) however, the whole thing was quite generous so it was perfect for the two of us (besides, we pigged out on the other goodies too).

I also indulged in the Swedish pancakes – which were fluffy crepes stuffed with a choice of ligonberry, strawberry or marionberry (hey, this did take place in Oregon) preserves. Then topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar. Since we walked around for at least a couple hours, I justified enjoying this sweet dessert with much satisfaction.

These photos are included here to give you an idea of what I had since I was so enjoying the food, the sites, the music, the dances…I completely forgot to take pictures with my phone. If you have ever sampled Scandinavian fare, it is really quite simple and not too fancy like French cuisine is but the flavors are either sweet, savory, salty or starchy. Estonian food is similar which is why we wanted to return to visit this festival and experience it one more time.

Now there are several other cities in Oregon that hold their own Scandinavian Festival but the one in Astoria is quite memorable and people from all over, including overseas, will attend such an event as this – and why not? It is a cultural display of the Scandinavian heritage that came upon the Pacific Northwest shores decades ago to establish themselves in North America and set roots on new land for their families and generations ahead.

Traveling up and down the Oregon coast will bring you delightful sites and scenery not just in the various towns but in it is people, it is various cultures and of course, the sampling of fantastic food (which I confess, is always my favorite part of attending an event like this) because it makes it worth a round trip of 5 hours – which is a pretty good way to spend a day with my own Estonian Viking.

So if you have a sense of adventure, love to explore, have a sense of curiosity that needs to be satisfied, then take a trip this annual festival next June and go visit Astoria – even if you’re 50 or older, be a kid again and take time to explore the world around you – it is worth the trip.

Post-Tribute to my Father

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Last Sunday was Father’s Day. I must admit, I didn’t get anything for my Dad. I live in Oregon, he lives in Hawaii. He misses me terribly and I try to do my best to call him a few times a week and despite his ongoing arthritis, he still manages to mail me handwritten letters. I feel like a failure at times not to keep in touch as often as I should

have done. I called him to see how he was doing, Given the three hour time difference, he was having lunch while I was finishing up my shift working remotely from home. He began to describe to me what he was having for lunch: kalua pig, sweet potato, fresh pineapple, sari sari (Filipino soup) and veggies and char siu. My mouth watered after pineapple if I’m being truthful. I was born a foodie and miss all the foods so much more readily available there in Hawaii that I can’t find here in rural Oregon.

However, conversation was pulled into other topics like weather, health, how everyone else’s health is and of course, I shared with him my new job opportunity. He was happy to hear I was getting into something new but always the main thing he told me was he just wanted to be happy.

Most parents want their kids to be happy and successful, whatever that means. My Dad knows I have a loving husband, the security of home and full time employment and that my health is good. I think that’s the basic, fundamental core essentials that most parents want for their kids.

Both my parents view happiness differently given their opposite personalities. I blogged here last month about my Mom. She adored the article and even left positive comments. As for my Dad, I don’t think he’ll even get a chance to read this article or write comments because he has never used a computer.

Yes, let me repeat myself: My Dad has never used a computer.

I created an e-mail address for him; my older brother and I have TRIED to show him how to use it. He said he doesn’t want to think that hard about writing. If he is going to write to me, he will hand-write letters and mail it out to me via snail mail. He has no concept of e-mail. It blows his mind every time I try to explain it.

I am just glad he knows how to use the ATM, OK? I give him “A” for effort.

Despite my Dad’s disinterest in computers, he is like a typical man: he loves the remote control and t.v. He enjoys watching the news every night and of course, his favorite Korean drama shows. Hawaii residents seem to have an addiction to those shows. One night while visiting my family a few years ago, I asked him what the big hub-bub was about these shows. He explained they weren’t the typical “Hollywood” shows with fast cars, wild women, steamy sex and bad language. They had a plot.

Now I “gently” argued with him that not all Hollywood shows were in that general category he talked about; yes, a lot of them were like that but not all. Many were award-winning movies and films. But he encouraged me to watch one of the shows with him, a historical drama about court intrigue such as the one titled “Empress Ki” in which a young woman is sent to the Yuan Empire in China (one founded by Genghis Khan) and eventually becomes Empress.

Damn. I ended up watching the entire episode and wrote down the schedule of WHEN it would be on; then of course, I told my Dad I could probably buy the entire DVD set once it becomes available for purchase on Amazon. He looked at me as if I spoke a Biblical verse in fluent Hawaiian. “You mean, you can buy that kind of stuff on there, Babe?”

I had to laugh. My father is from a generation that isn’t always up to speed in the latest of what is available online. OK, he has never BOUGHT or ORDERED anything online. But I told him I will keep an eye out and make sure when it is available, I will get him the entire set.

But that means I’ll need to get him a DVD player. That means I’ll have to teach him how to use it.

That immediately got tossed out of my memory window. My Dad would be happy just going out for a half-day with him walking around downtown Chinatown in Honolulu, eating Chinese food and bringing home fresh vegetables and fruits from the market stands.

He is a simple man with simple tastes. In his days of leisure now because he is retired, he is content to just be with his family, go to church, walk downtown to exercise his arthritic legs and once in a while, savor a roast duck with hot rice.

I find the older I get, the more I am after relishing simple pleasures like that and isn’t that what life really is about? Spending time with the ones you love and if you live at a distance, keep in touch with him as often as possible.

I told you that my Dad doesn’t use the computer, so he has never learned to type. He recently sent me a hand-written letter thanking me for sending him a letter (of about 5 pages) which he received the day after Father’s Day.

I didn’t want to tell him I couldn’t afford to send him a Father’s Day gift this year; money was tight and honestly, I hadn’t planned anything for Father’s Day. I felt like a rotten, unappreciative daughter. So I decided if I wrote to him to let him know what’s going in my life lately, I think he would be okay with that.

When I got his letter the other day, he wrote his usual greetings about remembering the good Lord and all He does, remember how much he (my Dad) loves and misses me very much. Then he went on to say that he was so overjoyed at getting my letter that it was the best Father’s Day gift he could have this year short of my actual flying back to Hawaii to be with him.

The little girl in me started to cry, I felt a knot in my stomach and my eyes started watering just like they are now thinking about it. He asks for so little. A 5-page letter meant more to him than any Father’s Day gift I could have planned to have sent him. OK, maybe the roast duck would give me heavy competition.

I didn’t realize until that moment how much my Dad thought of me, How much he REALLY loved me. It’s just paper and words but to him, my words were gold. My letting him know I was doing fine (short of my bitching about my current job frustrations) were dear to him because his “baby girl” was living, thriving, loved and cherished and well taken care of by a wonderful husband.

What more could a father want more for his only daughter?

Saying “I love you, Dad” will probably never be enough even if I were to write it in this article. But my heart is full knowing that I have the best father in the world. He always worked so hard to provide for us. I was never without and I always had his love.

We may have had our differences, very few and far in between. So with a smile on my face, a song in my heart and contentment that I will always be his “baby girl” no matter if I’m 51 or 101.

Belated Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Even if you never read this blog, I want everyone else who gets to read this article know that I will love you forever. Oh and one more thing:

Save me some roast duck and dim sum next time I fly back to Honolulu, OK? Love ya lots!

 

Ham Radio, Pad Thai Scallops and Seaside, Oregon

The city of Seaside in Oregon has become one of my favorite coast destinations since I live in Willamette Valley. It was established in 1806 when a group of men from the Lewis and Clark expedition developed a salt-making cairn in this area later developed and known as Seaside. Its name was taken from a historic resort built in the 1870s by railroad magnate Ben Holladay.

It is popular with Oregonians as well as visitors that flock up and down the Oregon coast, especially during the summer months. Most recently, my husband and I made our annual trek there every first weekend in June to attend the annual SEA-PAC Ham Radio Convention which is the largest in the Northwest region that is part of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Northwestern Division’s Convention. This association allows ham radio operators to connect with each other across the United States in learning about amateur radio, resources and information.

My husband is a ham radio enthusiast for the last 30 years and I didn’t find out much about it until a few years ago when I first attended the convention with him and took my exam to be licensed as a Technician, the first level of 3 licensing levels. I will admit, I didn’t find the convention all that interesting because ham radio is not a passion of mine. I found it interesting as far as communicating over the radio but all the technical components and electronic “shop-talk” that hams love to discuss was not my speed or style. However, for the sake of natural disasters and communication fall-outs, he suggested I learn it given where we live.

It was interesting to meet so many age groups from children to young adults, women and men who enjoyed this hobby and past-time interest. The second year we went, I got my General license and told my husband that was as far as I was going with the licenses. I wanted to explore more of the area and check out the promenade, the aquarium and of course, all the shops and eateries.

Yellow Curry Cozy Thai restaurant is a cute little corner eatery in downtown Seaside that I ordered take-out (pad Thai with scallops instead of shrimp) and had lunch at with my husband last weekend. I love Thai food because of the flavors, textures and the fact that they always use a variety of vegetables and rice noodles, depending on the dish. The service is prompt and courteous and when we first discovered it when we attended our first convention.

This time around, we also visited the Carousel Mall where they featured various shops, snack eateries and even an actual carousel for kids to ride on as well as a Chinese restaurant called New Garden Asian Cuisine that offers take-out, an arcade, leather goods store and other fun shops for residents and visitors alike.

We even tried a new seafood restaurant called Doogers Seafood and Grill in the heart of downtown Seaside. They were pretty crowded when we got there on Saturday night but a lot of ham radio people also stayed in and around Seaside to attend the convention, so many of them greeted my husband affably when we entered the restaurant. Their menu of extensive seafood dishes were generous in portion and their scallops (yes, I’m a big fan of scallops) were to die for!

The great thing about Seaside is that it small enough people are friendly and helpful. There are tons of pet walkers, families, couples and walkers who stroll up and down the sidewalks and famous Promenade that is about a 1.5 mile concrete walkway in length that spans the beach side. It is a relaxing, enjoyable environment where the atmosphere is laid-back. I definitely felt quite sad leaving it on Sunday wishing time had not gone by so quickly.

We stayed at Rivertide Suites which has a fantastic view of the Necanicum River and is less than a five-minute walk to the Convention Center, so it was easy for my husband to come and go to the hotel whenever he wanted. The suites were comfortable with amenities like a full kitchen, jetted tub and balcony with a view of the ocean and river alike. Seagulls were constantly heard daily and a rooftop access of the hotel allowed guests like us to enjoy a panorama view of the entire downtown Seaside. It was sheer heaven and bliss to feel the salty air and hear the ocean surf again. Reminded me so much of Hawaii back home.

Activities at the convention included lectures, a flea market and exhibition, luncheons with special speakers, raffle drawings and an antenna party on Friday night at the beach. There was plenty to keep my husband occupied and plenty for me to check out in downtown Seaside such as booking a wonderful pedicure at a new business called Salon on Broadway. Two young men named Will and Keegan are the owners that are kept busy lavishing their expertise in hair, skin and nails to women like me. I hadn’t had a pedicure in several months and found this was the perfect time for pampering myself with a foot massage and shellac pedicure.

Although travel is exciting and rewarding, it is even more important to ENJOY the experience of visiting a place, even if it is one you have been to before or enjoy going again for a mini-vacay or an extended week or longer. Ironically, had I not moved up here to Oregon, I probably never would have discovered the unique, inspiring and captivating beauty of the Oregon coast.

There are lighthouses to see nearby such as Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and even towns north such as Warrenton and Astoria that will make a wonderful day trip on any itinerary. If you prefer to head south, Cannon Beach is a great stop with its boutique style shops and fabulous beaches.

Making a point to travel – whether it is to Seaside or to another place in the Pacific Northwest, take time to enjoy the great outdoors, revel in the towns and cities you stop in and take in the unique community culture that makes that place its own identity.

So no matter your age, make time to visit a place you have never been. The reward of creating fond memories with loved ones during travel is one experience that you can revisit again and again.