GratiTuesday: International Markets

I’ve written before about how much my husband and I enjoy visiting the local marketplaces when we are traveling. The colors, tastes, and smells provide a treat for the senses and the energy is exhilarating. I love to discover produce and prepared food items that I have never heard of. Even if I’m not always brave enough to indulge, it’s a fascinating window into another culture.

We are fortunate that, here at home, we can enjoy a similar experience by visiting the many ethnic markets that dot our various neighborhoods. Within easy driving distance from our house, we have at least one Mexican market, two Middle Eastern markets, and two Asian markets. Drive a little further and the choices expand considerably.

Sometimes I like to visit these markets just to look around because the inventory is so different from what is available at a plain vanilla supermarket. Where our Ralphs or Vons might have a few feet of shelf space devoted to spices, the ethnic markets will often have a whole aisle. And, not only do they offer spices that I recognize, they stock even more that I don’t. The jams and jellies are made of fruits I’ve never heard of and the meat departments often offer cuts not displayed in most “regular” grocery stores.

While visiting Oaxaca, Mexico this past spring, my husband and I became quite fond of an iced tea made with dried hibiscus flowers or jamaica (pronounced hah-MY-kah). When we returned, we missed the taste and wanted to be able to make it ourselves. After some searching, we were able to find small packages of the dried flowers at one of the local Middle Eastern markets (the Mexican market – which is much smaller – didn’t carry it). Just today, I discovered the other local Middle Eastern market carries the flowers in bulk. Yipee!

This package contains two cups of dried hibiscus flowers

If you are interested in trying jamaica tea, here’s the recipe. If you don’t have an ethnic market, you might be able to find the dried flowers online.

Jamaica Tea

1             cup of dried hibiscus flowers

0 – 1      cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your tea)

4              cups of water

Add sugar and water to a pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the flowers, turn off the heat and steep approximately one hour or until cool.

Strain the tea into a bowl with a lip. Press the blossoms to extract as much water into the bowl as possible, then toss (the tea should be a lovely, deep red).

Pour the tea into a pitcher and add 4 additional cups of water. Stir and refrigerate.

When my husband and I pour ourselves a glass of jamaica tea, we often cut it further with bubbly water from our SodaStream (about 3 parts tea to 1 part bubbly). That way, if we’ve used the full cup of sugar when making the tea, the final product is much less sweet.

The taste of Oaxaca in a pitcher

I am grateful for the interesting and diverse food shopping choices we have in our city. I’m also grateful that I can instantly transport myself back to Oaxaca just by sipping a tall glass of chilled, ruby-red, jamaica tea.

Thursday Doors – Port Townsend, Washington

Port Townsend sits at the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Because of its prime location near the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the site of a safe harbor, it became an important shipping port in the late 1800s. The town grew rapidly on speculation as investors banked on Port Townsend becoming the largest port north of San Francisco. Although that dream never came to fruition, many beautiful Victorian homes and historical buildings still stand as a reminder of its heyday.

Boating and maritime life are still central elements, but now Port Townsend is also well-known as an artists’ community. The tree-lined streets of the waterfront downtown area features multiple galleries, artists’ collectives, unique shops, and tempting restaurants.

And doors. Port Townsend has so many beautiful doors, it was hard to capture them all… which I didn’t… which is why I’m sure that I will return.

Thursday Doors is usually run by Norm 2.0, but is guest-hosted by Joey this week. Please visit her blog to find links to more doors.

GratiTuesday: Getting High

As I was looking over pictures taken on our recent travels, I was struck by how many times we found ourselves way up high looking down. Hiking on trails that took us well above the forest floor, riding on a train through narrow mountain passes, biking along a path that traveled over old, abandoned train trestles, peering down from the lip of a dam that towers 550 feet above bedrock, and standing on a “see through” bridge that spanned a rocky river hundreds of feet below.

North Cascades National Park
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad
Hiawatha Bike Trail
Grand Coulee Dam
Looking straight down the side of the dam 

I know a few people who wouldn’t find these views very enjoyable. Some would muster their courage and go anyway, although trying to avoid a direct line of sight to what was below. Others would probably deny themselves the experience altogether, unable to overcome their fear of heights.

I realize that I have no idea what these fears feel like. I do know that they are not ones that people can just “get over.” They are real and they can be terrifying. And they can be frustrating. And they can be limiting.

For me, getting high is part of the fun, and I am so grateful that I’m able to embrace these experiences and enjoy the incredible views.

Thursday Doors… a Hodgepodge

My last post, titled Hodgepodge Travel, outlined a recent trip my husband and I took to the Pacific Northwest. Continuing with the theme, this week’s pictures are a hodgepodge assortment of doors that caught my fancy along the way.


The Seattle Center Armory was built in 1939 to house the 146th Field Artillery. The building was incorporated into the footprint of the 1962 World’s Fair, when it was reconfigured into a food and shopping mall.


The U.S. Courthouse at Union Square in Tacoma, Washington began its life in the early 1900s as the city’s rail station. In the early 1990s, the abandoned Union Station was completely renovated and reconfigured into a federal courthouse. Its magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture was maintained and the light-filled rotunda houses a “stunning collection” of glass art by Tacoma native Dale Chihuly (I had to put the description in quotes since, unfortunately, we were there on a Sunday when the courthouse was closed).


I’m pretty sure this tunnel door is in Idaho. The Hiawatha Trail, a 13-mile bike path, was built along an old railroad route. The trail goes through eight tunnels – including one that is a dark 1.6 miles long – and travels over seven high trestles. The portion of the trail we rode begins in Montana and soon (somewhere in the middle of a tunnel) transitions into Idaho.


We found this spaceship docked in a parking lot in Wallace, Idaho. We could find no evidence of recent occupation by spacemen.


Maybe not technically a door, but certainly a gate qualifies? This historic headgate, located in Post Falls, Idaho, was part of a system that provided water power for the region’s first commercial lumber mill as well as irrigation water to the Spokane Valley. The headgate was raised and lowered to control the flow of water.


Not historically significant, but I just loved the teal patina of these doors found at the Barrister Winery in downtown Spokane.

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings, located in Victoria, B.C., overlook Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The impressive buildings, constructed in the late 1800s, were designed in the Baroque and Romanesque Revival styles. They are open to the public and offer free guided tours, but we arrive too late to take advantage of them. Fortunately, they left the lights on for us.

Thursday Doors is a link-up of fellow door addicts aficionados generously hosted by Norm Frampton. Head over to his blog to view all the amazing doors he and others have posted.

Hodgepodge Travel

Different destinations inspire different types of travel. Earlier this year, my husband and I spent an extended period of time in a single location. That particular destination, the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, invited us to linger, stroll the cobblestone streets, savor the food, and immerse ourselves in the culture. I wrote several posts about our experiences, including one titled Slow Travel.

In contrast, we recently returned from a less focused – or, maybe I should say multi-focused – trip to the Pacific Northwest and a few points beyond. Unlike our earlier trip, where we stayed in one place throughout, this one was definitely more of a hodgepodge that included multiple mini-trips during our time away.

We took many forms of transportation, including:

  • Airplanes
  • Automobiles (including two separate car rentals)
  • Shuttle buses
  • Public buses
  • A monorail
  • A motorboat
  • A ship
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White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, Skagway, Alaska
  • A train

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  • Bicycles
  • A farm tractor
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Spokane, Washington
  • A giant Radio Flyer (ok, that one didn’t actually move)

We visited four states – three of which I had never visited before (four more to go to check off all fifty).

We visited one foreign country. It was brief, but it still counts, right?

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Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

We enjoyed multiple National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests, and National Historic Sites.

We stayed in one higher-end hotel, a few lower-end motels, and in the homes of friends and family.

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Concrete, Washington

We set our feet in Concrete, dined in Forks, found Opportunity, and got a charge out of Electric City (all located in the beautiful state of Washington).

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Wallace, Idaho

I discovered that I am, indeed, the Center of the Universe, as well as pretty insignificant when compared to the size, power, and magnificence of a glacier.

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Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska

Since we’ve retired, my husband and I have enjoyed traveling slow, quick getaways, long road trips, prearranged tours, spontaneous adventures, and a hodgepodge mix of travel styles.  We have discovered that, whatever way we choose to travel, the important thing is to get up and go – and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

GratiTuesday: Coming Home

I love to travel, and we’ve been doing quite a bit of it this year. We have just arrived home from our latest adventure and, I must admit, I am relieved. No matter how much fun we have, interesting places we explore, or new experiences we have, walking in our front door after a long trip feels like… well… coming home.

Even mundane tasks like doing laundry, running errands, and planning and preparing meals make me happy. Having all our familiar things just where we want them is comforting. Sleeping in our own beds – with our own pillows – is heaven. Pretty soon all of that will become more routine, but right now I’m enjoying the newness of our everyday lives.

As I finish unpacking and sorting through my photos, I know that I’ll grow nostalgic for our travels. I may even start to plan our next adventure. But, right now, I’m so grateful to be back in my home.

Spectacles, testi…

When I travel – especially when it involves airplanes – I try to pack as light as possible. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly put together a travel capsule wardrobe that makes packing easier and gives me a number of mix-and-match outfit choices. My capsule is primarily made up of three colors that work well together and integrate with my clothing at home (most of these clothes are part of my everyday wardrobe, not ones that I only wear when I travel). My chosen travel colors are navy, gray, and purple/raspberry. Others might choose black, white, and red (or some other accent color). Pinterest and certain fashion blogs are a great resource for more information.

One thing I don’t usually carry when I travel is a big purse. I much prefer a small cross-body bag for my cash, a small notebook, and (minimal) personal items. I also carry a smaller cross-body pouch for my iPhone (which I like to keep handy for picture-taking).

Because these “accoutrements” – the two smaller bags in place of one larger purse (plus, whatever else I might have, like a map or my DSLR) – are not what I’m used to carrying, I have to be careful not to misplace anything along the way. After eating a meal in a restaurant or attending an event, I try to be extra-deliberate about gathering everything up before I leave.

I call this mental sweeping process I go through to assure I have everything: “Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this saying, here’s the background (hopefully no one is offended):

A priest and a rabbi are on a plane, when the captain makes an announcement: “We are experiencing engine trouble and have to make an emergency landing. This could be rough.” As they are landing, the turbulence is terrible and the priest notices the rabbi making the sign of the cross.

Fortunately, the plane lands safely and, as they are disembarking, the priest says to the rabbi, “so, when the chips are down, you acknowledge Jesus?” The rabbi looks confused, so the priest says that he saw him making the sign of the cross. “Oh that,” says the rabbi, “I’m just checking my inventory: spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch.”

Apparently, the line is also found in at least two movies: Nuns on the Run and an Austin Powers film.

Although not anatomically correct for me (nor do I carry a watch), this little ditty runs through my head as I check to make sure I don’t leave any of my items behind.

So far, it has worked every time and has helped to remind me more than once to grab my sunglasses before leaving.

Whatever works.