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North America Travel

    North America Travel

    What to do in Scottsdale Arizona

    My Fab Favorite Things

    Location: Scottsdale Arizona

    I just visited Scottsdale Arizona for the third time.  I really love this little town because it has so much to offer; great weather, spectacular scenery, interesting history, great outdoor activities and delicious restaurants.  In fact Scottsdale seems to have the highest concentration of dining options of just about anywhere I have every been…all of them delicious.

    During my various visits to Scottsdale area I have created a short list of my favorite things to do while in Scottsdale Arizona.  This list is certainly not complete, because the wide variety of activities ranges from  visits to the Grand Canyon to Food Tours on a Segway, from gambling all night long to lounging by the pool all day.  I myself am not a golfer, but certainly golf is one of the biggest things that draw visitors to this area.  Scottsdale definitely has something for everyone.

    As you plan your visit to the beautiful Scottsdale Arizona area, perhaps this list of what to do in Scottsdale Arizona – my fab favorite things, will be of use. I hope it is.

    Accommodations

    Vacation Rental Kierland Commons

    A wide range of accommodations are available in the area from camping in beautiful state and national parks to budget hotels, high-end resorts and gorgeous yet affordable vacation rentals.

    Food

    You will never go hungry in Scottsdale.  Oh my goodness no.  I could go on and on with the recommendations, but I’ll just list my current favorites; Bowl of GreensOlive & Ivy, Roaring Fork, Postino, Hula Tiki Bar, Snooze, The Mission, The Breakfast Club, Blanco, La Bocca, and Los Olivos 

    Shopping

    Postino

    I’m not actually a big shopper, but while in Scottsdale this past weekend I took advantage of the great shopping to begin to rebuild my travel wardrobe for the continuation of the Grand Adventure.  I spent a couple of hours at the Scottsdale Fashion Square and picked up a couple of things at the Kierland Commons.  Additional options for shopping in the area include Old Town Scottsdale, The Promenade and Scottsdale Quarter.

    The Desert Botanical Gardens

    One thing I can always shop for is plants and garden related items and my visit to the stunning Desert Botanical Gardens gave me so much inspiration for bringing a wee bit of the Southwest into my Pacific Northwest Garden. I spent about two and half hours here one morning by myself enjoying the gorgeous gardens and the interesting interpretive signage about local flora & fauna as well as indigenous people. During my visit I walked more than three miles around the stunning gardens.  Entry fee is $25 and worth every penny.

    Taliesin West

    Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, AZ.  It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.

    Wright’s beloved winter home and the bustling headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship, was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a world unto itself. Deeply connected to the desert from which it belongs.

    Desert Botanical Gardens

    Tickets are $25 and reservations are highly recommended.  One of my favorite tours in all of the USA. Don’t miss it.  Learn more at Taliesin West.

    Hiking

    Climbing the dry and difficult trail to the top of Camelback Mountain is one of my favorite things to do in Scottsdale Arizona…but it’s not for everyone.  You need to be in good physical condition and carry lots of water, but the effort is worth it.  Pinnacle Peak is another great climb in the area or take a day trip (on your own or with a tour) to the Sonoran Desert for a spectacular hike where you can enjoy the desert scenery to the maximum.

     

    Nightlife

    Handlebar Js

    Everything you can think of is available for nightlight in Scottsdale from casinos and concerts to comedy and festivals.  Cowboy bars, upscale nightclubs, roof top bars and Bodegas are available all around Scottsdale. You can also find a variety of improv clubs, piano bars and dance clubs. Talking Stick is a popular casino with a famous rooftop bar.

    With my high school friends last weekend in Scottsdale

    Or go more “Arizona Country” at the famous Rusty Spur or Handlbar J’s.  For something that will really tickle your funny bone, check out The House of Comedy.

    These are just a handful of suggestions of what to do in Scottsdale Arizona –  the always interesting Southwest USA town.  Not as crazy as Las Vegas, and not as expensive either…Scottsdale offers a wonderful get-away with a warm and inviting climate most of the year.

    Don’t forget your swimsuit!

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    North America Travel

    Charleston South Carolina – Southern Charm and Hospitality

    Location: Charleston South Carolina

    We were so lucky to spend a few lovely days visiting friends in Charleston South Carolina.  It’s a bonus when friends live in cities worth visiting and Charleston is definitely one of those.  Charleston South Carolina oozes southern charm and hospitality – you just want to eat it up.

    We had visited Charleston years ago, in fact about 27 years ago.  Boy time does fly.  And although the surrounding areas of Charleston proper including the town of Mount Pleasant where we were staying, have grown exponentially, historic Charleston has stayed much the same.

    The oldest town in the American south, Charleston dates to 1718 and is named for King Charles II of England.  Originally located north and founded in 1680 (location now known as Charles Town Landing), the town moved south to the strategic location where the confluence of the Wando and the Ashleigh Rivers meet Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

    The city today (population of the greater Charleston area about 775,000) is well-known for its beauty, colonial history, hospitality, exceptional restaurants, and surrounding recreational opportunities.

    We spent our short time in the area enjoying the company of our friends, and several sites around the region.  We did not go out to Fort Sumter, because we did that long ago.  Instead we walked more than eight miles all over historic Charleston.  Although the horse-drawn carriages are fun, Charleston is a pedestrian friendly town.  It’s perfect for walking; flat, safe and beautiful.  On our walk we enjoyed the magnificent historic churches (Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City because it has so many church spires) and cemeteries. The colonial historic homes are enchanting, each so perfectly coiffed and dressed as if going to a ball.  The week we were visiting was the peak of the jasmine bloom – literally millions of jasmine blossoms on nearly every beautiful home, perfumed the air for miles around.  We visited Battery Park where the herons were nesting in the giant oak trees overlooking Charleston Harbor.  Of course we stopped for photos at Rainbow Row, the original commercial district and now the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the USA.  Our walk took us to The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston dated 1674.

    I really enjoyed the Historic Charleston Market, stretching for four blocks it has been a market of one sort or another since 1790 and operates in the beautiful and historic market hall.  Today the market is almost all arts and crafts, showcasing the region’s blend of Southern US, English, French and West African cultures.  My favorite was the spectacular handmade reed baskets known as Sweetgrass Baskets.  Made still today in the traditional manner by the descendants of West Africans, the baskets are works of art and sell for hundreds of dollars.

    Shem Creek Park north of historic Charleston, has a lovely park and nature preserve made for walking and enjoying the birds and beauty of the area.  This is also where you can see all the shrimp boats and pick up some fresh shrimp for dinner, which we did! Another beautiful walk is out the former bridge to Sullivan’s Island.  When the new bridge opened the old bridge found new purpose as a wonderful pedestrian park across the estuary and perfect for kayak launching, bird watching, fishing and picnicking.

    Boone Hall Plantation is definitely worth a visit even with the $25 entrance fee.  Boone Hall has been a working plantation for more than 350 years.  Although the current main house is not original (dates to 1936), it is beautiful and keeps to the authentic time period.  The row of brick slave cabins were really interesting, with each one focusing on interpretive information about the slave life.  Local docents offer short talks about the plantation and slavery, and a half an hour storytelling and singing presentation by a local Gullah woman was first-rate.  I am so glad we visited beautiful Boone Hall.

    I could write another entire blog about the delicious food of this region…but I’ll just end the post today with a shout out to pimento cheese and  pork rinds, cheeseburger with fried green tomato, BBQ Brisket and coleslaw, scallops with pesto and mushrooms and fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. It’s a delicious city, one of its many, many charms.

    Charleston South Carolina, a perfect little package of southern charm tied pretty with a hospitality bow.  Visit soon.

     

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    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Hello USA – Back Once Again

    Visiting the United States for Four Months

    Location: United States of America

    Our round two of the Grand Adventure has come to an end and we are returning to our home country of the United States for four months.  We head back out for round three in September.

    Meanwhile, dropping back in to the hectic and crazy USA is causing us some anxiety.  Living in the USA is

    My hometown of Gig Harbor

    fast-paced and a bit maniacal, and last summer we found our visit after 18 months away, a bit of a blow.  After living in places with no cars, no grocery stores, no English and sometimes no sanitary systems…arriving in the USA is both deja vu and a culture shock.

    We have grown accustomed to our travel way of life, amongst people who are different, cultures that are

    Our new Condo

    different, food that is different and language that is different. So adjusting back takes some effort when the USA seems a bit weird.  But I’m sure we will adjust.  It will be a relief to have Safeway, Target and a few other things like good gas prices, my hair dresser and my manicurist, a washer and dryer -things that seem such a luxury to us now.

    All that said we are looking forward to seeing our family.  And we are very excited to finally see the condo we bought last fall sight unseen.  This condo will serve as our home when we are in the USA for the foreseeable future as we continue to travel.  We are

    Seeing friends

    hopeful that it was a wise investment and are really looking forward to unpacking our things that have been in storage, some of them for nearly four years.

    We hope to have a bit slower pace this summer than last summer, when we tried to do and see too much.  Our priorities this summer are family, and working on the new condo.  Of course we hope to see some friends too and finding time to work out and get in shape is a goal.  Two short trips are in the works; Scottsdale Arizona and Big Fork Montana.  But other than that, we will stay close to Gig Harbor, family and our new condo.

    While in the USA we will still have a travel blog every Friday and a book review every Wednesday and I hope to post some blogs about the remodel of the condo.  We hope you will continue to follow and enjoy My Fab Fifties Life. We are so grateful to our faithful followers of our blog and our journey.

    Hanging out with family

    We depart the USA again on September 11th and you are invited to follow our round three as we head out for ten months with destinations that include China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cypress, Malta, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Czek Republic, Belarus, Lativia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.  Big plans.  We hope you follow along.

    Hey USA!  You look Fabulous!

     

     

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    North America Travel

    Miami Nice – Four Miami Neighborhoods to Visit

    Location: Miami Florida USA

    Miami is much bigger than I expected.  A shiny port city with lots of shiny expensive cars and beautiful people.

    I was pleasantly surprised – arriving without really any expectations.  It’s beautiful, but

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Ceviche at Jaguar

    also expensive.  There is a lot of traffic too, but we enjoyed our six days and explored as much as we could.

    I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to live here – but apparently a lot of people can.  The city is growing, with construction of both sky scrapers and roads all around.

    Four Miami neighborhoods to visit

    Cigar rolling Little Havana

    We stayed in a cute little cottage Airbnb in Coconut Grove – one of my favorite neighborhoods we discovered during our visit.  Here’s our list;

    Coconut Grove

    The Grove has a nice neighborhood feel, although mega mansions are hidden behind high walls and in immaculately landscaped gated communities.  But still it felt like a

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Cuban Sandwich Little Havana

    family place, although we never saw a public school – we did count six fancy private schools within the neighborhood we were staying.  Coconut Grove reminded me of Pasadena, with similar street shopping and restaurants and sidewalk cafe’s.  But it also has a beautiful harbor with hundreds of sailboats and yachts moored.   Coconut Grove also has a “low rent” district, but as a visitor you are likely to spend your time in the historic old town.                                                                             Favorite Spot – Jaguar Restaurant for delicious Peruvian ceviche and other specialities.

    Little Havana

    Historic and quit small Little Havana is easy to explore – pretty much all on one street,

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    Art Deco south Beach

    Calle Ocho (8th Street).  Here you must try the amazing Cuban Coffee (similar to Turkish Coffee – sweet and strong) as well as delicious Cuban Food.  We ate lunch at Old’s Havana Cuban Bar and Cocina where we had a giant Cuban Sandwich and a delicious mango mojito.  There are some small shops and some kitschy Cuban souvenirs.  Stop to watch the old men playing Dominoes at Dominoes Park.                                                                                                                                                       Favorite Spot – Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company, family owned and operated by the Bellos Family for 100 years.  Here you can watch the art of hand rolling cigars.  Of course you can also buy cigars (many kinds and prices) if you are in to that.

    South Beach

    South Beach is every thing you imagined.

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to visit

    South Beach

    White sand, blue water, tropical pink lifeguard station and lots of sunbathers glistening in oil.  We spent several hours enjoying the sun and the warm waters of the Atlantic.  Quit the contrast to the Atlantic we watched a few weeks ago in Spain.  South Beach is home to a lot of celebrities, as well as high-end shopping, hotels, bars and restaurants.  Choose a street cafe and sip on one of the fishbowl sized tropical drinks and watch the people go by.                                                                                                                                 Favorite spot – South Beach’s famous Art Deco Architecture is worth a visit.  You can take a guided tour ($25) or just walk around on your own to see the wonderful collection, most very well-preserved, from the 1920’s era of glitz and glam.

    Wynwood Art District

    This reincarnated neighborhood is really cool.  You don’t need a lot of time here, or you can

    Four Miami Neighborhoods to bisit

    Wynwood Walls

    make it a full day because there are lots of restaurants, shops, art galleries and a couple of breweries.  This old industrial neighborhood used to be no mans land.  Until a few artists started opening up art space. It grew.  Someone painted a mural.  Then another.  Today nearly every paintable space in the small neighborhood is covered with art – more than 70 murals as well as sidewalk art and more.  It’s definitely unique, fun and colorful!                                                                                                   Favorite spot – the Wynwood Walls, an enclosed area of spectacular murals you can view for free.

     

    There is certainly more to Miami than these four neighborhoods – in fact a lot more.  We will need to visit again, to enjoy the beautiful weather, history, water and restaurant scene.  Miami nice.  Yes it is. Fabulous!

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    North America Travel

    My Favorite Things in Key West and Everglades Florida

    Worth a Visit

    Location: Key West & Everglades Florida

    We had eight days to enjoy Key West and the Everglades.  We didn’t see everything, but we did enjoy many things in both locations.  I’ve been intrigued by this area since I was a kid – but had only ever visited Florida’s northern gems – Pensacola, Orlando, Saint Augustine, Cape Canaveral.  Our time in the most southern part of this fascinating state was well spent.  Here are my favorites and recommendations for a visit to Key West and Everglades Florida.

    My Favorite Things in Key West and Everglades Florida

    You can easily do these two locations with a week’s vacation, although 8-10 days would be better.  If you want to add Miami (which we are doing next), you will need a few more days.  It’s very easy to drive from Miami to both Everglades and Key West, but it will take some time.  The roads are good but often two lane roads with maximum speed limits of 60 miles per hour. You will definitely need a car to get around both regions.  We started with a three-hour drive from Miami to Key West.

    Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

    What the Fish

    Key West

    On our drive from Miami we stopped for lunch in Key Largo at the famous “What the Fish” fish shack I had read about on Trip Advisor.  I’m so glad we did.  It ended up being one of the best meals we had in Florida.  We both had yellow tail fish tacos and beer, sitting in the glorious Florida sunshine enjoying the view of the yachts in the channel (known as waterways).  The service was incredible too.  Such a great way to start our visit.

    On arrival in Key West at Stock Island Marina, about ten minutes from historic downtown Key West, we found our little sailboat Airbnb.  Super cute, but super small.  It worked out fine, but I sure wouldn’t consider an extended stay in a tiny space like this again.  The best part was enjoying the marina’s pool, laundry and bar with live music.  I enjoyed drinking my coffee and watching the sunrise from the deck of the boat

    Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

    The Little White House

    each morning.

    My Fav Six Things to Do in Key West

    1. The Truman Little White House This historic home is part of a military installation that became a favorite destination for Harry S. Truman both during and after his presidency.  It’s a fabulous neighborhood (be sure to walk around and see more than just the house) and on the tour I learned so much about President Truman I did not know.  Fantastic tour.
    2. Hemingway House – Having only recently grown to admire Ernest Hemingway, I was very interested in learning more about his life.  This gorgeous home and tour is a fascinating look into the life of this incredible man – and the architectural masterpiece and gardens alone are worth the price of admission.  The tour was a little too big for my tastes, and a bit rushed.  But I still highly
      Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

      Hemingway House

      recommend it.

    3. Get Out on the Water – there are literally hundreds of ways to get out on the water in Key West.  Sport fishing is a huge draw to this area and dozens of operators offer fishing daily. Additionally there are kayak, canoe and standup paddleboard tours and rentals.  There are jet ski tours and rentals.  Sailing is popular and there are sunset sails with music and drinks. There are diving and snorkel tours by the hundreds.  We did a three-hour snorkel cruise (one hour each way and one hour in the water) to the Barrier Reef with Fury.  It was simple and all we needed and not at all expensive.  We’ve snorkeled all over the world, so it’s hard to compare, but we did enjoy the warm water, the beautiful purple fan coral, and some amazing encounters with beautiful fish.
    4. Duvall Street and Mallory Square – this is where you go to people watch, shop, drink and eat at all hours of the day and night in Key West.  It reminded me a bit of Nashville, with live music all day long.  We enjoyed a couple of meals and
      Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

      Snorkle fun

      drinks, and we watched the Apple Cup football game from a bar here.  It’s got a nice old funky vibe and is a Key West must.

    5. Eat at Blue Heaven – we read that Blue Heaven is one of Key West’s best and most popular eateries so we headed there for lunch.  The Thanksgiving holiday crowd was out in full force, so rather than waiting forty minutes for an outdoor table we enjoyed a delicious (but not cheap) lunch in their indoor dining room.  There special was a lobster grilled cheese sandwich, that sounded delicious, but at $23 I declined.  Instead I enjoyed a really delicious yellow fin tuna sandwich.  And we had to try their famous Key
      Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

      Dining at Latitudes Sunset Key

      Lime Pie.

    6. Eat at Latitudes on Sunset Key – we splurged on our last night in Key West to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary with a dinner at Latitudes.  Reservations are a must at this beautiful restaurant located a ten minute boat ride away, on Sunset Key.  The boat ride is included in your meal.  The setting was spectacular as was the service.  A wonderful romantic evening and a lovely farewell to Key West.

    Did you know?

    Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

    Key West Rooster

    Cock fighting was outlawed in Key West in the mid 1970’s.  Ever since, the descendants of these chickens roam freely throughout Key West.  Currently they are well fed and living happily ever after.

     

    My Fav Six Things to do in Everglades

    1. Shark Valley Tram Trail – this is the closest I ever want to be to an alligator. Holy Cow, we saw hundreds of alligators laying all around the trail just a few feet from us.  Seemed kinda crazy to me how close we were.  I guess they must not be too dangerous, but still…You can take a tram with a guide on this trail, walk it or ride bikes.  It’s a 15 mile round
      Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

      Mama alligator and three babies

      trip.  We rented bikes, although the quality of the bikes was disappointing for the price, but still enjoyed the experience.  Not only did we see hundreds of alligators up close and personal, we saw turtles and an incredible collection of bird life.  An amazing experience.

    2. Airboat Tour – you can’t visit the Everglades without taking an air boat tour.  These boats are uniquely designed for the terrain and waterways and it was a fascinating way to see the mangrove forests.  A bucket list adventure for me.
    3. Visit tiny historic Everglades City– we stayed in a darling Airbnb in Everglades City, a tiny town of only 500 residents.  Built in the 1800’s as a company town by Barron Collier (whose name is still everywhere including in Collier County), Everglades
      Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

      Airboat Tour

      (renamed Everglades City in 1953) has struggled through the depression, WWII and numerous hurricanes that have nearly wiped it out.  And yet this sweet little place embraces its heritage with some well-marked interpretive historic markers, a handful of restaurants and a thriving air boat port.

    4. Big Cypress Preserve is not actually part of the National Park. It’s right near Everglades City and the preserve is worth a visit. Two waysides provide amazing alligator viewing as well as interesting birds, trees and marsh.
    5. Eat Alligator – with so many alligators in Florida it’s no surprise you find it on the menu – although mostly for tourists who want to say they ate some.  As I did. Served to me like chicken nuggets and tasted very much the same as well.
    6. Visit Naples – we took the drive north to Naples, less than an hour from where we were staying in Everglades City, to visit some old friends who were on vacation in Naples.  I’m really glad we did.  Naples is a beautiful city chock full of mansions and yachts and high-end shops – a complete contrast to little old Everglades City.

    Did you know?

    The Everglades, called the River of Grass because the area is technically a river sometimes 60 miles wide, is not a marsh or swamp. Native Americans called it pahayokee, or

    Favorite Things Key West & Everglades

    Everglades

    the grassy waters. The ecosystem protects 14 endangered and nine threatened species, including the Florida panther, the Atlantic Ridley turtle and the American crocodile. (Credit USA Today Travel Tips)

    Next Time

    Next time we visit I would like to go to the Southern section of the Everglades where the Flamingo Visitor entrance is.  The geology of all of Florida is fascinating.  It is also changing, both geologically and weather wise, prone of course to devastating hurricanes.  We throughly enjoyed our visit, and I’d love to come again, before climate change causes too much more damage.

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    North America Travel

    Favorite Hiking & Cycling Trails in Puget Sound

    My Summer in Washington State USA

    Location: Puget Sound, Washington State, USA

    I’ve spent ten weeks in the beautiful state of Washington in the north-western United States.  This is where I grew up and where my family is.  It was fun being back, if only for a little while.  There were so many things I wanted to do and see, and I didn’t get it all done.  But I did manage to spend time enjoying my favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Sound.

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    On top of Buckhorn pass

    I absolutely love cycling, and even though I started this sport rather late in life (48), I have embraced it.  I ride a road bike (‘Specialized’ brand) but prefer to ride on paved trails rather than out in traffic.  And there are two of my favorite trails less than an hour from where I have been staying;

    1. The Chehalis Western Trail is a fantastic trail on an old railroad bed, well maintained and very beautiful.  It is located south of Tacoma Washington beginning in Lacey.  You can start or stop at several locations along this 50-plus mile trail.  You can make the ride even longer by continuing
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Lunch break on the Chehalis Western Trail

      on the Yelm-Tenino Trail.  If you do the entire length of both these trails it’s more than 80 miles of paved bike path (with the small exception of about 100 yards of gravel). The trail includes views of Mount Rainier, bucolic farmland, the city of Olympia, and the Deschutes River. I was able to ride the Chehalis Western Trail three times while I was in Washington.

    2. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a spectacular trail on the Olympic Peninsula.  You can ride more than fifty miles round trip on this trial, including a newly added section to Discovery Bay.  There are a few sections of the trail that take you out to
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      The Olympic Discovery Trail

      ride short distances on the highway, but for the most part the trail runs along the old highway and well maintained paved trails and bridges.  Highlights of this trail include crossing Dungeness River at the historic Railroad Bridge Park, riding through beautiful lavender fields in Sequim, enjoying views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and more bucolic farmland.  Simply spectacular and my favorite by far.  Unfortunately I only made it up to ride this trail once, but it was a beautiful day and I loved it.

    Both of these trails are for non-motorized vehicles only, and walkers are also encouraged.

    Speaking of walking, that is another of my favorite pastimes.  Last year when we walked the 486 mile Camino de Santiago from France to Spain we trained for more than a year.  Three months from now we plan to walk the 250 mile Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain and we have barely started our training!  So during these ten weeks here in

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    Hiking on the Big Quilcene Trail

    Washington we have tried to get out and do urban hikes as well as two beautiful hikes on two of my favorite trails in the Olympic Mountains;

    1. Upper Big Quilcene / Marmot Pass Trail has a lot of elevation gain, but if you take it slow most anyone can do it.  And what does elevation gain mean?  Well of course it means spectacular views when you get to the top.  It’s about five miles to Marmot Pass and another steep scramble if you want to reach Buckhorn Ridge.  On a clear day you can see Seattle, all the Cascade mountains and for miles of the Olympic range as well.  The trail is well maintained, although you will need to walk through a rocky section where a slide has taken place.  This hike round trip if you go all the way to Buckhorn Ridge is 14 miles.  Or to Marmot Pass about 11 miles.  Be sure to have a Northwest Forest Pass (purchase ahead of time at many area locations).
    2. Lower Skokomish River Trail is one of my favorites.  We usually do a ten-mile round trip on this trail, but you can go further.  This well maintained trail takes you through
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Our lunch spot on the Skokomish River

      beautiful old growth forests and then along the Skokomish River for miles upstream.  There are a couple of places where you can get down to the river bed for a picnic or to camp.  The start of this trail is pretty steep, but once you get through the first mile it flattens out into a beautiful meandering trail where you hike through forests and cross creeks.  There is another climb but its easy and then again a flat and Favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Soundenjoyable walk from there.  This trail is rarely busy and I feel safe enough to walk this trail alone.

    So there you go, some of my favorite active pastimes in the Pacific Northwest where I have been since May.  We are now just days away from parting the USA again.  We will return to Washington for another visit next June.  Hopefully I’ll have more free time then, to cycle and hike around this spectacular state.

    Departing in T minus 11 days.

    North America Travel

    I Made That!

    Do It Yourself Glass Art

    Location: Silverdale Washington USA

    Making your own glass art project is surprisingly simple, fabulously fun and a great activity for kids young and old. Do it yourself glass art might be my new favorite craft.

    I spent a couple of hours this week at Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio in Silverdale Washington USA.  This was one of my Wednesday With Mom outings that I have been doing with my mom all summer long.

    Do it yourself glass art

    My mom getting creative Click and hold for larger image

    I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but I had seen some of the large and incredibly stunning works of art that come out of the Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio so I was looking forward to it.

    The glass studio offers classes (they were having a summer camp class while we were there) for both adults and children.  They also offer a DIY

    do it yourself glass art

    Our teacher Tara demonstrating technique Click and hold for larger image

    class.  You just call and let them know the day and time you want to come in to make your own creation.  Then they will have the supplies and someone on hand to guide you.  This is what I did with my mom.

    do it yourself glass art

    Mermaid phase one adding the first color Click and hold for larger image

    The sitting fee for the DIY is $8 and

    do it yourself glass art

    A wide selection of colors Click and hold for larger image

    you can make up to three pieces for this one sitting fee.  You then choose what you want to make and the costs for each project (cost covers glass, preparation, guidance and firing) varies depending on what you choose to make.

    Mom and I are both beginners so we started with something simple – small glass cutouts that could be used in a window or in a garden or as a ornament or maybe as a gift.  My mom chose a frog and I chose a mermaid. These each were $38.

    We learned how the process works – first you clean the glass carefully.  Then you chose your glass color that you will apply on top.  The glass is very fine sand-like granules and you sift it on to the different areas of your

    do it yourself glass art

    Lisa Stirrett owner and glass artist Click and hold for larger image

    piece.  The mermaid had a bit more detail than the frog.  I chose a teal blue for the mermaids body.  I then used a stencil to apply a glittery gold pattern over the top (the glitter was an additional $10).  Finally I put a silver glitter on her hair (you know, because I am the Grey Goddess and

    do it yourself glass art

    Mermaid phase II – all the color has been applied Click and hold for larger image

    all).  There are several tools you can use to clean up your mistakes, or to pinpoint a small area or to define a certain part.

    On the frog my mom chose to do a pale yellow-green lightly all over the body of the frog.  She then used larger glass chunks in a

    do it yourself glass art

    The frog warts and all ready for the kiln Click and hold for larger image

    bright pistachio green to make the frog look like he had bumps and warts.  The staff at the studio helped apply black paint for the frogs eyes.

    All of this only took about an hour and half.  We left our masterpieces behind to go into the kiln for the firing. Before the glass goes in the kiln it is placed on a soft paper that looks similar to quilt batting.  In the kiln it absorbs into the glass and gives it a multi-dimensional look.  I picked our pieces up several days later and it was amazing how different it looks after its been in the kiln.

    DIY Glass Art

    Mermaid Final product Click and hold for larger image

    Someday when I am back in Silverdale I would love to tackle a larger piece and really create something memorable so I can say I Made That!  In the meantime, if you are in the area I recommend checking out Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio to make your own project or to pick out a gift or something for yourself from their beautiful gallery.

    Another successful Wednesday with Mom!  Fabulous!