GratiTuesday: Funky Town

I live in a pretty big city. But like most cities it’s made up of small communities, each with its own distinct personality. The demographics of each community often define its personality, but sometimes it is hard to know if the personality came first or the demographics.

There is a beach community that is several miles from where we currently live but is less than a mile from my childhood home. I spent much of my summers hanging around the beach and strolling along the main shopping district with my friends. It was funky when I was young and it is doing its best to maintain that funk even as investors salivate at its potential for development. That independent, counter-culture vibe is apparent on signs in shop windows and on bumper stickers that read: “U.S. Out of O.B.”

Starbucks managed to get a toehold, but not before receiving a huge community pushback. I’m not sure how it’s doing (long-time residents still refuse to patronize it), but they have smartly downplayed the corporate look at this particular outlet. Now, a Target Express wants to take over what was once a five-and-dime store and is now an antiques mall. If Target manages to break through the strong local opposition, I will be one of those mourning the loss of another locally-owned business.

Last Saturday, my husband and I attended the town council’s annual Pancake Breakfast. The proceeds help fund projects like the annual Food and Toy Drive and pay for the gigantic lighted Christmas tree “planted” on the beach each December. Although the food is OK, a big draw is that the breakfast is held on the fishing pier. After several days of chillier-than normal weather and constant overcast, we were favored with bright blue skies and warm sun. It was a glorious morning.

So many of our communities are being taken over by generic chain stores and cookie-cutter fast food outlets. It has become rare to find a truly locally-owned business and, when I do, I try to patronize it as much as possible. If I have to spend a little bit more to keep a family’s business in business, I am willing to do so. And, if paying $10 for two pancakes, a scoop of scrambled eggs, and a couple of charred sausage links helps support a community’s desire to maintain its unique character, I’m all in. That it includes dining at a table which offers a view of the coastline and surfers playing in the waves below, all the better.

I am so grateful for the personality of the small community I grew up in. It’s a little bohemian, a little quirky, and a lot funky. It’s been a long time since I’ve sunned myself on the beach and most of the businesses have changed since my younger days. But the smell of the salty air is unmistakable and, in many ways, it will always feel like home.

GratiTuesday: September’s Serenade

It’s nice to live in an area that tourists want to visit. We can enjoy year-round what many of them pay big bucks to enjoy for a few days or a few weeks. A trip to the beach, the zoo, or a popular entertainment venue doesn’t require a big effort any time of the year – we just get in the car and go.

The thing is, we very seldom visit these destinations in the summer… there are just too many people. Between the tourists and the local kids being out of school, most of the places that I’d love to go to are crowded. Parking is at a premium and the people per square foot is way over my comfort level.

So, we wait for September when everything starts to calm down. Hotels begin to empty of families and fill with business people. Getting a table at a popular restaurant no longer requires an extended wait. The beaches are much less crowded and parking is available. (And, here’s a little secret: we get some of our best weather in September and, often, even into early October.)

I was certainly aware of this seasonal switch when I was working full time, but I had many fewer opportunities to take advantage of it. I still had to be at work Monday through Friday and my weekends were shared with all the other 9-5ers and students. Now that I am retired, I can take mid-week walks on nearly empty beaches and visit the parks at a time when there is much less competition for space. In addition, the stores aren’t as crowded and some restaurants offer inducements to dine.

Sometimes it feels like my summer has just started.

I am grateful for the tourists (as long as they go home eventually) and I’m happy to see the kids out for summer vacation (I do remember being young, after all). But, when I start to notice the Back to School sales being advertised, I can hear the beginnings of September’s serenade. Now that it’s here, I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to fully enjoy its song.

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.

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.