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USA

    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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    At Home  --  North America Travel

    Review of McMenamins Elks Temple, Tacoma WA

    Summer in Washington State

    McMenains Tacoma

    Location: Tacoma Washington USA

    My Fab Fifties Life is enjoying a summer in Washington State, USA, where I was born and raised.  As much as I love my life of full-time travel, coming home to familiar ground where my family is brings a sense of stability to our nomad world.

    When we return to the USA most summers, my focus is always family, but we also get out at least once a week and play tourists in our own backyard.  And that is what we did this past weekend in celebration of both Father’s Day and my husband’s birthday.

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    McMenamins Elks Lodge Tacoma

    Growing up in the Pacific Northwest the blue-collar town of Tacoma always had a bit of a “smelly” reputation because of the pulp and paper mill that cast an odor over the town for several generations.  Today however Tacoma has become a renaissance town, with gorgeous views, multiple incredible museums, beautiful parks, and delicious dining.

    And the newest little gem to open in Tacoma is the McMenamins franchise masterpiece in the historic and beautifully restored Elks Temple in downtown Tacoma.

    If you aren’t from around these parts you might not be familiar with the vision of Mike and Brian McMenamin, Oregon brothers who have built a legendary business of turning historic and dilapidated properties into spectacularly quirky and fun hotels, restaurants, breweries, distilleries,

    Many pubs at McMenamins

    Elks Lodge Pub & Restaurant

    and event venues. For the past 20 years my husband and I, (on many occasions with our kids in tow), have made one of the dozens of McMenamins properties a destination weekend.

    The latest addition to the McMenamins dynasty is the opening of the Tacoma Elks Temple after several years of extensive restoration. The building had sat abandoned for thirty-five years, and time, weather and graffiti all had taken a toll.

    And yet, this is what McMenamins does best – breathe life into old structures all while digging deep into the silent history of a building to awaken both the known and unknown stories of the people and events that were there.  The Elks Temple does just that.

    Reflecting Tacoma's history

    Art everywhere you look

    Built in 1916 for the Fraternal Order of Elks, the building was home to one of the nation’s largest Elks organizations until the 1960’s.  It was then used as an event venue and, unlike the all-white Elks organization, the building welcomed anyone of any race and held many of the local African-American Rose Cotillion Balls for several years.  But times changed and so did the building as it fell into disrepair for 33 years until the visionary McMenamins saw its potential.

    We arrived in the afternoon on a very crowded Father’s Day and proceeded to taste our way through all of the properties five bars.  Each bar named appropriately, decorated with fun and interesting relics including menu’s that reflect the individual personality of each bar.  For instance in

    Tacoma's Spanish Steps

    Hand crafted beer and tapas at the Spanish Steps Bar

    the Spanish Steps bar (named for Tacoma’s beautiful Spanish Steps that run along the south edge of the building) Tapas are featured on the menu, while in The Old Hangout, a throwback to Trader Vic’s style 1950’s Tiki Bar serves everything from Mai Tai to Singapore Sling, grilled Pineapple Sundae or Salt and Pepper Squid.u

    True to the McMenamins model, guests must try to find the “hidden” bar called The Vault. We found it, actually cheated a little because someone was coming out…and I don’t think we would have found it otherwise.  Cleverly disguised. That’s all I’m gonna say.

    We had both dinner and breakfast in the Elks Pub and Restaurant where we enjoyed pizza, salad and soup for dinner with more McMenamin

    McMenamins Bars

    The Old Hang Out Bar throwback to old style Tiki

    hand-crafted beer.  For breakfast I had an amazing Eggs Benedict that included artichoke hearts and spinach and included cheese jalapeño grits.  Wow.

    The Elks Lodge now has 45 rooms, each and every one named for a person or group of persons who had something to do with the building or the surrounding area.  Everyone from Robert Cray (musician) to Bill Baarsma (former mayor) to Hattie Lund (no relation to me but a long-time Tacoma philanthropist) to the Puyallup Native American Tribe.

    I have two small complaints about our visit.  Our room which opened to

    McMenamins Elks Lodge

    Our room

    an atrium and did not have an outside window, was a bit stuffy and I wished for a window.  If I return I’ll pay a little more for a room on the perimeter of the building.  My other complaint is that although the wifi worked great throughout the building in bars and public spaces, it was non-existent in our room.

    Rooms start around $140 per night.  Food and beverage is very reasonably priced.  If you come, allow plenty of time to just explore…it’s like a museum of both art and history as well as a wonderful place to people watch Tacoma’s eclectic and proud residents.  So much fun.  We will be back.

    Learn more at McMenamins Tacoma Elks Temple

     

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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

    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!