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Laureen

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

    Reading Wednesday

    Brilliant. This book is brilliant. Please enjoy my book review of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.

    I wasn’t sure I should read this book. All I knew about it was that it was about a plane crash, and since I am a bit fearful of flying (yes even with all my travel) I thought it might be a mistake. But I am sure glad I did.

    Because this beautiful story is not about a plane crash as much as it is about life and living. Napolitano’s luminous prose bring the reader so close and personal to the characters in this novel you feel you are right there with them. Not just the main character Edward, a 12-year old boy and the sole survivor of a plane crash, but each and every person who is touched by this experience.

    The web of connected lives, survivors and non-survivors, family, acquaintances and the entire world is beautifully illustrated in the aftermath and ensuing years as the story of Dear Edward unfolds.

    Yes there is a plane crash, but the real story is about living and loving and mending and how resilient we all are. Thanks for reading my book review of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.

    *****Five stars for Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.

    Read last week’s review of 28 Summers

    See this week’s top performing pin here.

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    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Road Tripping Idaho USA

    Part One of a Three Part Road Tripping Series

    Location: McCall & Sun Valley Idaho, USA

    Inspired to explore environs closer to home, meaning in the United States, we set out on a road trip in August. Road tripping Idaho USA began in Washington State. We traveled 3375 miles through 5 states over 13 days. Our goal was only to sate a wee bit of our wanderlust and see a few towns and regions we had never visited. This is the first installment of three part series of our road trip adventures.

    Hiking in Idaho
    Hiking was at the top of our list for our road trip activities

    Road Warriors

    I should start by telling those of you who don’t know, that we have visited all fifty states. Yes, in addition to the 110 countries we have visited we can also claim to have visited all fifty states. Admittedly I am a bit of an overachiever (insert eye roll).

    But point of clarification – the way we accomplished this momentous task is by…wait for it…ROAD TRIPPING! Yep, it’s really the only way to visit all 50 states, and over the past twenty-eight years we have traversed the entire country on six separate road trips. Our first road trip was in 1992 when we drove from Washington State to Washington DC. So our Road tripping Idaho USA begins our sixth USA road trip.

    Idaho Deer
    Rural Idaho offers a lot of wildlife viewing opportunities

    Road Tripping in the Time of The “C” Word

    That inconvenient virus has made every aspect of our lives a struggle, including a summer road trip. We planned a socially distanced itinerary and were able to pull it off by planning ahead, traveling with cleaning supplies and wearing our masks. We spent multiple days in Idaho, Colorado and Oregon.

    Way to go Idaho

    Given that Idaho is the neighbor to my home state of Washington you’d think I would have spent more time there. But not so much. I’ve visited the panhandle multiple times, and the city of Boise, but on this trip I really wanted to see more of the mountains in the south so that’s what we set out to do.

    Reflexion in Lake
    Beautiful Twin Lakes, a four mile easy round trip hike in McCall

    We drove our first day to Spokane, still in Washington State but right on the border with Idaho. We spent a fun evening with my husband’s brother and his wife, before making an early morning escape under the cover of darkness. Today’s drive was about six hours to McCall Idaho (crossing into Mountain time zone), home to Payette Lake, Brundage Mountain and beautiful scenery.

    We spent our first day in McCall enjoying the company of dear old friends who have retired to this gorgeous area. It’s not hard to see why they would choose it. Everything you might want is here; hot dry summers, cold dry winters, hiking, biking, boating, skiing, great dining and beer. Wow.

    Wildflowers in Idaho
    Abundant wildflowers at Twin Lakes

    Day two in McCall we did two easy hikes. First we hiked to Twin Lakes, an easy four mile round trip suitable for just about anyone. It was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. We had gotten an early start and found the trail and the lake deserted, except for a lone fisherman…perfect. The views were like a postcard…actually better!

    Next we went to the Brundage Ski Area very popular in the summer for mountain bikers. We had a delicious lunch (socially distanced outdoors) on the deck of the lodge before riding the chair lift ($15) up to the top of the mountain. Here we could see all the way back to McCall and Payette Lake and well beyond. The chair lift ticket includes a round trip, but we hiked the 4 mile cat track back down to the lodge, enjoying a wide variety of wildflowers and bird life, and only a handful of other people.

    Chair lift at Brundage
    Masked up for the chairlift ride at Brundage Ski Area

    We spent our two nights in McCall in a tiny little cabin a block from the lake. Teeny kitchen and bath, a comfy bed and a fireplace make this place cozy and perfect for a few days winter or summer. We also enjoyed sitting around the campfire in the evening. See it here.

    Payette Lake
    Payette Lake is a dream for boating and water sports

    Day four we exited early, heading south to the famous Sun Valley region. We had never visited Sun Valley and it had been on my list for a long time. Sun Valley is made up of several towns, and several ski areas. The best known town is Ketchum. We stayed in Hailey, about five miles outside of Ketchum (another peaceful and exceptionally well kept Airbnb. See it here).

    Sun Valley Ski Resort view
    You can see forever from the top of Sun Valley Ski Resort

    Our first day in the valley we took the gondola at Sun Valley Ski Resort up to the top of the mountain ($25). The weather was clear and warm and you could see for a hundred miles. We had an outdoor socially distanced meal at Warfield Distillery in Ketchum and explored some of the local microbrews.

    Ketchum Idaho
    A great view from the outdoor patio at Warfield Distillery in Ketchum

    Day two in the valley I enjoyed a long morning run on the Wood River trail that runs for 15+ miles all along the valley. Next we took a short hike on a nature trail near our Airbnb along the Wood River. We finished our day playing nine holes of golf at the beautiful Elk Horn Golf Course. Sun Valley is peppered with golf courses…wish we had been able to check out a few more – next time!

    Elk Horn Golf
    A beautiful golf course, Elk Horn in Sun Valley

    Feeling Safe in Idaho

    Idaho has a population of 1.75 million and ranks 35th in the USA for virus infections with just over 28,000 (Source Statista as of August 19th). In both McCall and the Sun Valley area we found people wearing masks in all stores and restaurants and many people wearing masks on the sidewalks in town. Idaho was dead last in the USA for cases until mid-June when virus cases began to rise.

    Sawtooth Mountains
    Mountains Majesty – the Sawtooth Mountains

    We made a point to keep distanced, choose activities where we could easily stay away from crowds, and we enjoyed our road trip in Idaho. It really is an underrated gem in the United States. Now I want to go back in the winter. Road tripping Idaho USA filled our goals.

    Join us next week for our Colorado installment of Road Tripping USA.

    See our road trip to Montana from Summer 2019.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

    Reading Wednesday

    A perfect summer read, 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand is one of those romantic yet complicated stories to enjoy at the beach. Or anytime really. I didn’t recommend this one to my husband…it is more of chic book. But that’s okay, I enjoyed it. Liked not loved.

    We get pulled into the unexpected romance of Mallory and Jake when they are young and carefree and still trying to figuring who they are and where they are going. In 1993 twenty-something Mallory inherits a summer cottage on Nantucket and decides this is where she will spend her life. When her brother brings his bros to the island to enjoy a bachelor party, Mallory meets Jake. It’s Labor Day weekend 1993.

    Jake is semi-attached but not wholly committed to Ursula de Gournsey, a driven woman who get’s what she wants through will, wit and sacrifice.

    But on this weekend in 1993 Mallory and Jake will form a bond, and begin a love affair that will last 28 summers. Coming together on Nantucket no matter what, every Labor Day weekend.

    Based loosely on the story “Same Time Next Year” Hildebrand develops a love story, not always believable that it could be kept a secret in this day and age, but still sweet and sometimes sappy. Mallory and Jake were meant to be together, but status, distance, power struggles, politics and decisions and mistakes they each make along the way, cause their relationship to only be one weekend a year.

    You’ll spend the whole book rooting for their love, and shed a few tears when the middle-aged lovers spend their last weekend together.

    ****An easy summer read. Four stars for 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

    Read last week’s review of This Tender Land.

    See this week’s top performing pin here.

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    Adventure Travel  --  North America Travel

    Chasing Waterfalls in Washington’s Puget Sound Region

    Summer in Washington State

    Snoqualmie Falls

    Location: Washington State USA

    Spending every summer in Washington State, we always try to search out something new and interesting we have never done. The Pacific Northwest is chock full of gorgeous opportunities for hiking, biking, boating and more. And this summer we decided to go chasing waterfalls in Washington’s Puget Sound region.

    There are lots of waterfalls to choose from, and not only on the west side of Washington. Eastern and Southern Washington have a variety all their own. But we chose to visit five waterfalls within a short drive of our summer villa which is located on the Kitsap Peninsula.

    Today I share with you five beautiful, easily accessible waterfalls everyone should visit – locals and visitors alike. It’s time for everyone to try chasing waterfalls in Washington’s Puget Sound region. So here we go;

    1. Marymere Falls

    Marymere Falls
    Marymere Falls near Port Angeles Washington

    The drive to Marymere Falls trailhead is in itself a great summer or fall activity. Located just a short 2 mile walk from Crescent Lake and the Crescent Lake Lodge, Marymere Falls is 30 miles from Port Angeles and is within the Olympic National Park so an America the Beautiful Pass is required. At this location you can also do the Storm King hike if you are in good shape and an experienced hiker. As for the hike to Marymere, it is accessible to just about anyone. Starting from the parking lot it’s about 2 miles with a slight incline to reach the falls. The view of the 90 foot drop of the falls is beautiful. This hike is very popular and can be extremely crowded on a summer weekend. Consider fall or midweek if you can.

    2. Franklin Falls

    Franklin Falls near North Bend Washington
    Franklin Falls

    There are at least three waterfalls all within a few miles of each other and just off of Interstate 90 near North Bend and the town of Snoqualmie in the Cascade Mountains. Franklin Falls is the first of the three. A easy and beautiful 2 mile round trip hike through old growth forests, Franklin Falls is on Denny Creek. You can swim at the base of the falls and many people come here on the weekends to cool off in the summer. This is a hike you can do any time of year, and the water level of the falls changes seasonally. Again its easy access makes it very popular on summer weekends and parking can be tight. Plan accordingly. Franklin Falls is part of the Denny Creek Washington State Campground and a Discover Pass is required.

    3. Twin Falls

    Twin Falls Washington State
    Twin Falls near Snoqualmie Washington

    A short drive west from Franklin Falls you can get to the hike for Twin Falls. Located on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, Twin Falls is within Olallie State Park and a Discover Pass is required. Many families come here on the weekend to swim in the river, but the hike has a slow and steady incline so not everyone goes to the falls. But due to limited parking, consider weekday visit in the summer. The 2 mile round trip hike meanders along the river then traverses through beautiful forests before reaching the first observation point for the falls. Continue on another quarter mile to get up close and personal with beautiful Twin Falls.

    4. Snoqualmie Falls

    Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge
    Snoqualmie Falls near the town of Snoqualmie Washington State

    The Granddaddy of all Washington waterfalls is the incomparable Snoqualmie Falls. Located on the Snoqualmie River, just downstream from the town of the same name, Snoqualmie Falls is majestic. Higher than Niagara, the falls have a different personality depending on the season. If you are lucky enough to view the falls during a flood or high rain season you will be astonished by the amount of water that thunders over. But the falls are just as beautiful during summer and fall, when the narrower cascade gracefully falls like a veil. Snoqualmie Falls offers multiple viewing platforms, open from dawn to dusk, and a steep hike is also an option down to the base of the falls. Access is free and free parking is also available. A very special treat is to dine or stay the night at the impeccable Salish Lodge, located right at the edge of the falls with spectacular views. Snoqualmie Falls is located just off Interstate 90. Follow the signs through the town of Snoqualmie to the falls.

    5. Silver Falls

    Silver Falls in Washington
    Silver Falls, Mount Rainier National Park Washington State

    Within Mount Rainier National Park you will find a variety of glorious waterfalls, as well as wonderful hiking options. Silver Falls is one of the most beautiful, with a 3 mile round trip loop hike that most anyone can do. Start the hike at the Ohanapekosh Campground, located at the Cayuse Pass entrance to the park about 47 miles from the city of Enumclaw. Once again, summer weekends are busy and parking is limited, so try to come midweek. Autumn is an excellent time to visit as well. The hike is within the Mount Rainier National Park and a America the Beautiful Pass is required. From the parking lot follow the signs to the falls through a beautiful old growth forest with views of the Ohanapekosh River below. Arriving at the falls you will be awarded with a stunning view. Cross the tiny wooden bridge to see another view of the falls, or to clamber out on the giant boulders and enjoy your lunch. Return to your vehicle on the loop trail, enjoying more of the beauty and scenery of this magnificent National Park.

    Beautiful Washington

    We love our home state of Washington and love being tourists in our own back yard when we are in Washington and the USA. Chasing waterfalls in Washington’s Puget Sound region is just one of our favorite things. Want to learn more about our Favorite Places in Washington? Click here.

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    Washington Waterfalls
    Washington Waterfalls
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    One of the best books I have read in months. I have been struggling to find a really captivating novel for a while. I found it here in this beautifully written story. Here is my book review of This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger.

    Set in Minnesota in 1932, our narrator is a 12-year old boy (nearly thirteen, he keeps telling the reader), finds himself caught up in an adventure of a lifetime. Leaving behind the cruel and corrupt Lincoln Indian School, Odie O’Banion and three other orphans set off to find a new life, and nearly perish in doing so.

    Odie (nearly 13, his older brother Albert, Moses ( a mute Sioux boy) and 6-year old Emmy are all searching for something – home. They become a little family as they navigate in a canoe from Lincoln School towards Saint Louis on the Mississippi.

    Of course a multitude of dangerous, funny, frightening and surreal adventures ensue…including murder, kidnap, snake bites and near starvation as the four orphans endure great loss and pain, reminiscent of The Grapes of Wrath and Tom Sawyer all in one book.

    I enjoyed William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace (see my review), but I loved This Tender Land and think Krueger’s storytelling ability shines bright in this coming of age novel about life in the hard scrabble depression. With a backdrop of the beautiful American Midwest, Krueger brings the reader easily along the adventure and the characters of this novel easily into our hearts.

    *****Five stars for This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

    Read last week’s Year End Review 2019-2020

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    North America Travel

    A Tree House Hideaway in Washington State

    Rockabye Baby in the Treetops

    Location: Fall City Washington State USA

    We continue to look for lovely little getaways close to home that we are calling Sanity Staycations (read about our first Sanity Staycation here). A way to travel when we can’t really travel, due to this inconvenient little virus. On our latest Sanity Staycation we found a Tree House Hideaway in Washington State. Only a couple of hours from home.

    Temple of the Blue Moon at Tree House Point
    Our little nest

    I’ve known about Tree House Point for years…but it has never made it into our destination bucket, until now. Boy am I glad we went. Secluded, unique, comfortable and beautiful – living in a tree is incredible – such a surprise. I can’t wait to go back. A tree house hideaway in Washington State tops just about anywhere we have stayed…and that’s saying a lot.

    Tree House Spruce Tree
    The old growth spruce that started it all

    Beginning in 2004 when Pete and Judy Nelson first bought this magnificent forested property on the Raging River just 30 minutes from Seattle, Tree House Point now welcomes visitors from around the world for overnight stays, weddings, retreats and more.

    The very first tree house built, Temple of the Blue Moon, (see title image) happens to be the one we stayed in. Apparently the magnificent old growth spruce that supports this tree house was the inspiration for Pete and his crew at Nelson Tree House and Supply. And well, after the completion of Temple of the Blue Moon in 2007, Pete just kept building and today six tree houses (with a seventh on the way) make up this exceptional hidden retreat.

    Tree house interior at Tree House Point
    Temple of the Blue Moon interior

    Our Sanity Staycation included more than just hanging out in trees…we went waterfall chasing too. During our visit we hiked in to see Franklin Falls and Twin Falls. Both these falls are a short and easy hike, less than 30 minutes from the tree house. Each hike offers beautiful scenery with minimal elevation gain, and very close to Interstate 90. But beware, because of their easy access they can be very crowded on a summer weekend. Try to visit midweek.

    Franklin Falls
    Franklin Falls

    We also visited Snoqualmie Falls and had a spectacular meal overlooking the falls at the world famous Salish Lodge. We have eaten here before and once again were not disappointed. My scallops were sublime and Arne’s pork chop was as tender as butter. Salish offers valet parking for guests, a wonderful list of Washington wines and first class customer service.

    Snoqualmie Falls
    Snoqualmie Falls
    Dinner at Salish Lodge
    Scallops at Salish Lodge

    Tree House Point room rates vary by season but sleeping in the trees will run close to $400 per night. Usually two night minimum is requested, however, if there is an opening in the calendar for one night you can book. That is what we did, and how we were able to reserve on fairly short notice. And by the way, it was worth every penny.

    Breakfast at Tree House Point
    Breakfast at Tree House Point

    It’s a special experience, includes a delicious breakfast and the customer service was top notch. If you can, try to visit. I have to agree with the folks at Tree House Point…everyone should “be in a tree”. They make it easy here.

    I’ll be sharing more about waterfalls in a blog soon.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday – My Year-End Review

    A Year End Review of Reading

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    A year end review of reading. I did it. I set a goal last July to read 75 books in a year. And I did it, I read 83 books. Nearly all these books I read on Kindle while we were traveling. A couple were on Audible and a few were good old fashioned paperbacks. I enjoy books in all three applications.

    Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve found it a bit difficult to stay focused on a book. My mind wanders a lot. But I still was able to meet my goal, and I also wrote one book review blog a week over the past year.

    Reading on Kindle

    I don’t think I’ll set a goal for next year. I’m just gonna read for the love of reading. We can see a year from now how that turned out.

    Reading Wednesday

    I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life. If I can inspire you to get lost in a book, my job is done here. And hopefully a year end review of reading can do just that.

    So since late July 2019 I have read 83 books, and I have written about many of them. You can find the entire book review collection in the Reading Wednesday section of this blog (just click).

    Reading a paperback

    Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 83. In fact in the list below are five that I can say are some of the best books I have ever read…and that is saying a lot.

    For a year end review of reading I’ve put those five at the top, and then below that the rest are listed randomly. I hope you can find a favorite of your own amongst this list and I thank you for your continuing support of Reading Wednesday and My Fab Fifties Life.

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    Top Five of the Year

    1. The Immoralists by Chloe Benjamen – if you were told when you were a child the exact day you would die, how might it affect everything about your life? So is the question Benjamen explores in the brilliant and unique novel The Immoralists. I loved this story.
    2. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – Just after the end of WWII a young, unmarried and pregnant Charlie goes in search of her missing cousin in Europe. Her search will lead her to horror stories of the war and eventually to her true family and friends. I loved this book.
    3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King – I never read Stephen King so I was shocked to find that this story became one of my favorite reads ever. Not just about the assassination of JFK on 11/22/63, but an unequaled time travel book about the choices we might consider if we could go back and change history – would we do it and what would the consequences be. I loved this book.
    4. The Testaments – by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale continues to rank as one of my favorite books of all time, even after 30 years. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that I waited for the release of the sequel (finally). It was worth the wait. Every bit as compelling and incomparable, even pulling in some subtle nods to the politics of the USA in 2020. I loved this book.
    5. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd – Kidd’s bold re-telling of the story of Jesus once again shows her chutzpa as a writer, her creative ability and incomparable talent to take the reader on a well-worn journey with an absolutely fascinating new twist. I love Kidd’s work and The Book of Longings did not dissapoint. I loved this book.

    It was hard for me to only choose five for the list above. Because there were so many good ones this year. Here are 14 more of the very best from the 83 books I finished this year.

    14 More That Are Awesome

    The Huntress by Kate Quinn

    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

    Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

    The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

    My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman

    Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

    The Delight of Being Ordinary by Roland Merullo

    The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

    City of Thieves by David Benioff

    Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

    The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

    Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

    American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

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