North America Travel

    Woodland Park Zoo – A Seattle Treasure

    Location: Seattle Washington USA

    I have so many wonderful childhood memories of Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. I spent a lot of time there as a child, as my grandparents lived close by and we went there often. I loved it so much, especially the gorillas known as Bobo and Fifi.

    When my son Dane was a baby at Woodland Park Zoo

    Fast forward more than fifty years. Here I am again enjoying this beautiful park and zoo in the north Seattle Green Lake neighborhood because my oldest son now works there. Lucky me. I get to go visit the animals and my son at the same time!

    With my son Dane today at the Woodland Park Zoo

    Woodland Park Zoo has changed a great deal over the years. All for the better. The history of the zoo goes all the way back to 1893 when millionaire Guy Phinney passed away and his English estate complete with deer park near Green Lake became a public park. Through dozens of iterations this property would become the Woodland Park Zoo we know today.

    As a child I remember the zoo as very large, although I know now it wasn’t. The animals were all “caged” and you would walk from the lion cage around the corner to the monkey cage around the corner to the bear cage.

    Kids enjoying the otters at Woodland Park Zoo

    In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s interest in the zoo expanded as well as interest in creating a more sustainable and authentic environment for the animals. After several bond failures a Forward Thrust bond was approved in 1968 and a new future for the zoo was born. Re-visioning the zoo continued into the 2000’s with Asian Elephant Forest exhibit, Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, Education Center, ZooStore, Animal Health Complex, Northern Trail exhibit and Trail of Vines exhibit being constructed between 1987 and 1996. From 2001-2015 the newly developed Woodland Park Zoological Society raised private donations for the African Village, Jaguar Cove, Zoomazium, Humboldt penguin exhibit and Banyan Wilds as well as the restoration of the historic carousel.

    The majestic silverback gorilla today at The Woodland Park Zoo

    Today the zoo is home to 1098 animals from 300 species including 35 endangered and 5 threatened. The animals are in beautifully laid out exhibits that emulate the native environment of the species all while allowing visitors to feel up close and personal with these well cared for and beautiful creatures. Just two months ago a baby giraffe was born after much excitement and anticipation and is now available for visitors to view.

    Up close and personal at The Woodland Park Zoo

    Woodland Park Zoo is also home to a beautiful rose garden where weddings are frequent in the summer. Zoo Tunes is a very popular outdoor concert series and one of the many events my son works on. Throughout the year other events take place including a wine event, a beer event, WildLights Christmas display, a bunny hop at Easter and many more family friendly activities for the community.

    Lucinda Williams in concert at Zoo Tunes at Woodland Park Zoo

    Personally for me I couldn’t be happier that my son is a part of this wonderful place and the organization tasked with maintaining it for future generations. I love how it is today, and I loved how it was when I was a child. So few things in our society get better and better. Woodland Park Zoo is one of those.

    Big Grizzly at The Woodland Park Zoo

    Visit again or for the first time. You will love it.

    Learn more about visiting here. Learn more about the history of the zoo here. And learn more about the sustainable wildlife efforts here.

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    Cover photo – my husband and son Dane, 1987 at Woodland Park Zoo

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    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Round Up

    52 Books in 52 Weeks!

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I did it. I read and wrote a review of one book each week for the past 52 weeks. Some week’s it was a challenge, but other weeks I had finished more than one. So it usually evened out.

    Since returning to the USA in May (for a four month visit) it’s been a struggle to get a book done a week. We have been so incredibly busy with family, friends and our villa remodel. Not much time to read.

    At one point over the past several weeks I found I had three books going at one time – one paperback, one kindle and one on audible!

    Yes I am a bit obsessed with reading – I love what it does to my brain!!! And I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life.

    So since late July 2018 I have read 52 books, and I have written about each one. You can find the entire book review collection in the Reading Wednesday section of this blog (just click).

    Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 52. 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.

    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 Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman – my favorite read of the year. Not everyone is going to love this book as much as I did but I found it to be a beautifully written book of historical fiction about a time period and real life events I knew nothing about. Based on the siege of Masada in 73AD I could not put this book down. I loved the strong female characters, the mix of fact and fiction, the mystical and the esoteric. I loved this book.
    2. Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund – this book is twenty years old but I had never heard of it. It’s a very long book and it took me a long time to read it but I fell hard into this remarkable story and couldn’t put it down. I loved the fictional tale of this remarkable woman and how the author weaves real life characters and other fictional characters into the plot. I loved this book.
    3. Educated by Tara Westover – this book is amazing, for it’s writing but also for the fact that it is a remarkable true story about a young girl’s desire to go to school in a family of radical isolationist and anarchist. Her survival and perseverance makes a compelling novel that I could not put down. I loved this book.
    4. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – just go read this book if you haven’t. It’s been around since 1989 but it holds up and it is a spectacular saga historical novel. Fictional but with many historical facts Follett is a brilliant storyteller and I was captivated cover to cover despite the length of this book. Not only is the story brilliant but I learned so much about historical architecture and it opened my eyes to some of the incredible ancient cathedrals and buildings we see in our travels. I have just purchased Fall of the Giants by Ken Follett to start soon. I loved this book.
    5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is the third book I have read by Hosseini.  His masterpiece The Kite Runner is my favorite and this work A Thousand Splendid Suns comes in a close second.  He writes in a hauntingly beautiful style that brings his characters alive, in a country few of us have or will ever visit. I loved the brave female characters in this story, the strength and endurance and the message that family is not always from blood. I loved this book.

    And 12 More I Really Enjoyed;

    Murmur of Bees by Sofia Sergovia

    The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa Lee

    Five Presidents by Clint Hill

    The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.

    The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

    Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

    The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhader

    Thanks for reading, sharing and loving these books! Pin it for future reference!

    Adventure Travel  --  North America Travel

    On the Geoduck Trail – Quintessential Puget Sound

    Summer in Washington State

    Location: Key Peninsula Washington USA

    Growing up on and frankly IN the Puget Sound, I’m very aware and appreciative of the unique, beautiful and delicious bounty this body of water provides. A true Washingtonian loves seafood of all kinds from clams to salmon, oysters to Dungeness crab. Don’t ever try to tell me East Coast crab is better. Delusional.

    Geoduck harvesting
    Low summer tide in the Puget Sound

    As you know if you follow this blog I eat just about anything, and I’m not afraid of seafood or shellfish. When I was a child we dug steamer clams right in my front yard. We traveled to Ocean Shores to dig razor clams every spring. And each summer we harvested dozens of Dungeness crabs from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

    geoduck harvest
    Huge monster clams

    But for some reason, despite how delicious it is, I had never harvested geoduck, the giant, funny and phallic looking clam unique to this part of the world.

    geoduck harvest
    That’s a big boy

    Until now. Thanks to our friends who invited us, along with several other couples to try our hand at geoducking during a recent extreme low-tide (Puget Sound experiences extreme low-tides in the summer creating a perfect opportunity to hunt the giant clam that usually bores into the sand in deep water.)

    geoduck mouth in the sand
    Finding the mouth peeking out of the sand

    Geoducks can be found buried very deep in the sand, as much as four or more feet deep. At low tide, you can carefully walk around the beach and look for a tiny “mouth” sticking out of the sand, usually less than an inch. Depending on how long the geoduck’s neck is, the body of the beast will be found deep in the sand below where you spot the mouth. A geoduck neck can be four feet long. They can live more than 150 years.

    geoduck harvest
    Working the tube down into the sand

    Non-commercial harvesters will dig deep after spotting the mouth. Our friends used a large metal tube placed over where the mouth was found. Digging down inside the tube to locate the body of the geoduck, increasing the depth of the tube into the sand as you dig. Commercial geoduck harvesters have other methods (a very lucrative commercial market serves the Chinese insatiable appetite for geoduck). Read about it here.

    how to harvest geoduck
    The ungraceful grab of the geoduck deep in the mud

    As soon as you start digging the geoduck will pull its very long neck back down from the surface. But, despite what some people think, the geoduck cannot “run”. It can only retract the neck but its body will stay in place. Digging dip to find the body without hitting the body with the shovel makes for a delicate process. But the next part is neither delicate or graceful.

    On the hunt for the Pacific Northwest geoduck
    Our hosts Jeff and Dayl know how and where to harvest the geoduck

    Lying on your stomach you must reach deep into the muck inside the hole and grasp the giant clam by the shell….not the neck or you might pull the neck off. Loosening the clam from the deep mud where it has embedded itself securely takes some strength (and a few choice words). With luck you will come up with a giant geoduck weighing anywhere from one pound to as much as four pounds!

    crazy and funny looking geoduck
    Watch out for the squirt

    The next step is to take lots of funny pictures of these decidedly phallic looking creatures and spend some time wondering about Mother Nature and her sense of humor.

    Our harvest

    Then it’s time to clean them. First rinse of all visible mud and sand. Next they need to be dipped in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This loosens the outer skin (sometimes referred to as the condom) around the neck. It’s not edible until that skin is removed. Next clean the guts and stomach and rinse again. See a video here.

    how to clean geoduck
    Remove the tough membrane from the neck after a quick blanche in boiling water

    Finally it’s time to eat. Our friends prepared an amazing geoduck sashimi with three dipping sauces. Eating the sweet and fresh as it gets delicacy couldn’t have been more delicious. Our efforts rewarded.

    Sashimi, as fresh as it gets

    After our wonderful day on the beach with friends we brought home three good size geoducks. I prepared geoduck ceviche – a perfect way to serve the fresh uncooked, tender body meat. I highly recommend this recipe I found on Pinterest. I used Mango in place of Papaya and it was amazing. See it here.

    Geoduck Ceviche

    Next I used my food processor to grind the necks (which are tougher and more chewy than the body). Grind in small batches so it doesn’t get too mushy. I used the ground meat to make geoduck fritters served with a delicious dipping sauce of siracha, mayo and lemon. I found a recipe for Conch fritters that I adapted easily. See the fritter recipe here.

    Geoduck Fritters

    Finally I put the rest of the ground geoduck in a freezer bag and put it in my freezer. A week later it was used in a delicious geoduck chowder. When making chowder with geoduck you can use about half the usual amount of meat ratio to potatoes and other ingredients. I used both clam juice and chicken stock as my base instead of just clam as mentioned in this recipe. It was delicious.

    The geoduck team
    Everyone had a great time!

    To harvest any shellfish in the Pacific Northwest you need to have a shellfish license. See the rules here. It’s important not to over harvest, so that these delicious Puget Sound creatures will be around for generations to come, just like they have been for generations in the past. The name geoduck is derived from a a local Native American word from the Lushootseed (Nisqually) people gʷídəq. Puget Sound Native American’s harvested local shellfish and seafood long before any of us were here.

    Don’t fear the Geoduck despite it’s unusual look. Respect and enjoy this delicate, sweet, not fishy tasting and delicious giant clam of the Puget Sound.

    Summer in Washington State – Fabulous!

    Sincere thanks to Kameron Minch for many of these photos in this blog and to our friends Jeff and Dayl Minch for such a fun day.

    From Bloomberg News – Geoduck facts

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – There There by Tommy Orange

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Such an interesting book. An astonishing story about present day Native American culture, set in Oakland California.

    Orange provides in the beginning of the book a cast of 12 characters, almost like a program for a play. I knew when I saw that this was no usual book. Through out the story I referred back to this list of characters, to help me keep track of the connection between them.

    And the connections between them is the base of the story, even though the story is told brilliant from the view of each character…sometimes a chapter focuses on one character for many many pages – sometimes for just a paragraph or two…but always pulling and manipulating and bringing these people together in a violent and intense end.

    This story is not at all what I was expecting. A deep, meaningful and painful novel of the plight of the urban Native American, told in a clear and believable voice, mixed with heritage, spirituality, substance abuse, family ties and heroism.

    Five stars for There There by Tommy Orange.

    Read last week’s review of The Map of Salt and Stars.

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    North America Travel

    My Favorite USA Cities and Places

    What I recommend to visitors from abroad

    Austin City Limits

    As we travel around the world we meet many people who want to visit the United States.  We often meet people who have visited the USA and want to go again.  But the thing I find a bit surprising is that these foreign visitors all tell me they want to visit the same places; New York, Las Vegas and Orlando.

    Maui sunset – the sun sets between Lanai and the West Maui Mountain

    Those are the top three we hear.  Sometimes Los Angeles or San Fransisco or Washington DC.  Occasionally the Grand Canyon.  But most people we meet from other countries have New York, Las Vegas and Orlando on the top of their list.

    Chicago Illinois

    Wait.  What? I really find this surprising.  The USA is huge.  I know you can’t see it all at once.  But if I was recommending to someone where to visit in the USA I would never suggest New York, Las Vegas or Orlando as my first options.

    The United States is made up of a remarkable mix of geography, geology, ecosystems, history and cultures from sea to shining sea.  If a visitor wants to see and capture and feel what America really is…they would be better served visiting some smaller cities and unique places.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had good times in New York, Las Vegas and Orlando.  I just don’t feel they are representative of the whole of the USA, particularly Vegas and Orlando.

    Seattle Washington

    So here are some suggestions I would propose to consider when visiting the USA for the first, second or tenth time. My favorite USA cities and places.

    Miami Florida

    Hudson River Valley NY 

    We visited the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York three years ago, a place I had always wanted to go for the history and beauty.  It remains one of my favorite places in America.  Rich with history of powerful people and events, it is worth a visit when in the New York area.  Read about it.

    Portland OR

    Portland is only two and half hours drive from where I live in Washington State but I don’t get down there to visit often enough.  It is one of the hippest  cities in the USA and I love the vibe, the food and the scenery.  Thanks to Empty Nesters Hit the Road for this blog.  Read it here.

    Charleston SC

    I just spent some time in beautiful Charleston, another small American city with so much historical significance.  I love it there, and hope to go back again soon.  Read about it.

    Austin TX 

    I loved Austin as well as the Texas Hill Country and San Antonio when we visited several years ago.  A wonderful mix of food, music and history in a small, manageable and oh so friendly little package.  Thanks to GypsywithaDayJob for sharing this post.  Read it here.

    Washington DC

    Long before I was a blogger I lived in Washington DC with my family when my kids were little.  We loved living there…so much history and culture and great weather too.  We didn’t mind the snow even.  We spent our days exploring everything the region had to offer.  I hope to go back some day soon.  Thanks to Wired2theWorld for this post. Read it here.

    Nashville TN

    One of the craziest and most fun weekends I ever spent was in amazing Nashville Tennessee.  The food was great, the entertainment and music non-stop and the fun abundant.  All wrapped up in an easy to navigate historic little town.  Read about it.

    Central California

    My youngest used to go to school in Central California and we spent a lot  of time visiting.  What a great excuse it was to hit the road from our home in Washington and make the trek down or back on Historic Hwy 1 enjoying the many wonders of what I believe is California’s most underrated region.  Read about it.

    Scottsdale AZ

    I’ve visited Scottsdale several times and I can’t get enough.  My favorite Arizona small town has so much to offer from golf to restaurants, history to shopping and plenty of sunshine to go around.  Read about it.

    Boston MA

    Special thanks to The Traveling Tulls for this contribution about visiting Boston.  It’s one of my favorite cities anywhere in the world, and I can’t wait to go back again soon.  Read about it.

    Miami FL

    I visited Miami for the first time last December.  It was such a surprise.  I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did, but this city is made up of a collection of neighborhoods that are each so individual and unique, it’s like visiting many cities at once.  Read about it.

    Maui HI

    For me, one of my favorite places on the entire planet is Maui.  I can never get enough and I wish I could go every year.  It’s my favorite Hawaiian Island, and even though it has grown so much since my first visit there in 1979, I still love it.  Read about it.

    New Orleans LA

    It’s been a long time since I visited New Orleans but it still remains one of my favorite USA cities.  Steeped in history and some really unique culture it is as beautiful and delicious and friendly as they come.  Thanks to Jentheredonethat for this post.  Read it here.

    Utah’s National Parks

    I love the National Parks we have in the USA and of course love the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone parks as well as the Olympic National Park in my own backyard of Washington.  But I’ve got to say my favorite USA National Parks are in the amazing and under-the-radar state of Utah.  Stunning geology, crystal clear lakes, mountains and rivers all accessible to the public.  Read about it.

    Seattle WA

    Okay this is where I grew up, and still have a home about an hour from here, but I don’t usually write about how much I LOVE this city.  It is THE place to be in the USA in the summer, with the absolute best summer weather.  Don’t even get me started about the food.  So thanks to Wired2TheWorld for this post about Seattle.  Read it here.

    Denver CO

    I’ve been to Denver and the surrounding area and National Parks several times and I can’t wait to go back and spend even longer enjoying this beautiful place.  Some of our country’s most stunning scenery and outdoor recreation is at the finger tips of Denver’s sports-enthusiastic  population.  And lots of great food too.  Thanks to The Travel Bunny for this post.  Read it here.

    Chicago IL

    For a big city Chicago doesn’t feel big.  It’s a walkable, eatable, loveable place with what I think is some of the best public art and museums in the entire USA.  Thanks to World Travel Tribe for this blog.  Read it here.

    Charleston South Carolina
    Nashville TN

    So no matter where you live, in the USA or far far away, consider some of these beautiful and amazing cities and places when you are planning your USA adventures. You won’t regret it.

    Zion NP, Utah

    Special thanks to my travel blogging friends for their assistance with this post!

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review – The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    One of the best books I’ve read since The Dovekeepers, and similar in style. This beautifully written and Homeric first novel by Joukadar is poetic and powerful. I enjoyed every word.

    Similar to works by Houssein about Afghanistan, Joukhadar takes us to ancient Syria and present day war torn Syria in a melodic tale that weaves fact and fiction, myth and legend, family and heartbreak.

    The story follows two young girls in alternating timelines, one traveling and posing as a boy in ancient Syria on a mapmaking odyssey reminiscent of Homer. The other a young girl posing as a boy to survive crossing multiple borders in war torn present day Middle East North Africa along a similar route to survive the horrific and brutal destruction of her families home country.

    A remarkably told story, gripping and beautiful. I highly recommend this debut novel. I learned a lot about Syria both past and present and have a greater appreciation of the devastation for the innocent victims of this violent situation. I look forward to more works by Joukhadar.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar.

    Read last week’s review of A Long Way Gone.

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    At Home

    A Summer Remodel

    Eight Weeks and Done

    Location: Port Orchard Washington USA

    We hit the ground running (as usual) when we arrived in Washington State on May 9th. Back in the USA for a four month visit with our family and friends before heading off again for another year of travel.

    Living room when we arrived on May 9th (see cover photo for living room now)

    In addition to spending time with our aging parents and our adult children, we set out to tackle a remodel of the “villa” (condo) we bought last fall sight unseen. Four months seemed like it would be a lot of time to enjoy all the things we wanted to do and get the remodel done. Not so much. Wow, time moves faster than it used to.

    Fireplace before

    Our goal was to get the remodel done by July 1st. We worked tirelessly for weeks, eating dust and sleeping on the floor as we tore into the dated condo to make it more modern and to fit our personal style.

    Fireplace after

    We just missed the mark of July 1st. We officially wrapped up the project on July 2nd…with a tiny hand full of tweaks left to do here and there over the next two months.

    Laundry room
    Guest bedroom

    Here is what we did in just under an 8-week period;

    • Removed a wall and moved the wiring
    • Painted the kitchen cabinets, utility cabinets and guest bath cabinets
    • Removed wallpaper from guest bath
    • Added cabinet hardware
    • Painted the entire interior
    • New washer, dryer, refrigerator, range, microwave and dishwasher
    • Brought gas into the kitchen
    • New luxury vinyl wood look floors throughout the house
    • New floor trim
    • Painted all the trim and doors
    • Replaced all the interior and exterior door hardware
    • Updated the fireplace with new surround and hearth
    • New kitchen counters
    • New kitchen backsplash
    • Replaced five light fixtures inside and three outside
    • Unpacked dozens of boxes
    • Got new-to-us and brand-new furniture
    • Painted new-to-us furniture
    • New curtains
    • Decorated
    • Organized the garage and attic
    • Removed outdoor dead plants and replaced with new
    • Kicked back and had a gin and tonic
    Bedroom when we arrived in May

    We left one project for next summer – a full master bathroom remodel. That will be a big undertaking for when we return to the USA again next June.

    Bedroom now

    We were assisted in this project by Gordy Lund, my brother-in-law, who always does such nice work, Valona Painting, Precision Countertops, and Affordable Interiors and Flooring.

    Kitchen before – note wall on right that we removed
    Kitchen after – note the colored tiles we bought in Portugal and incorporated randomly in the backsplash

    We were so happy to get it done. And it looks absolutely beautiful. I love the layout of this one-level villa. I love the neighborhood. I love the landscaping. Most of all I love how peaceful it is. We have beautiful wooded trails; flat, safe running and cycling; and a golf course to boot. Guess I’m gonna have to take up golf next summer!

    Reading Room

    So from July 3rd through the rest of the summer we will be entertaining family and friends and just enjoying our new home. I am particularly enjoying having all my things around me again, after these being in storage for more than three years. It feels good.

    Office and Sewing Room
    Welcome to our new home Villa de Verano (Summer House)

    But we still plan to continue to travel. We have a house-sitter in place to care for our home between September and June as we continue on our Grand Adventure. We look forward to coming “home” again next June and staying through Christmas.

    I call this the museum – a place for all our special travel mementoes

    I feel really blessed to have the best of both worlds; a beautiful place to call home, and a life of full-time travel. Lucky, fabulous me.

    New floors going in

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