I read recently that twenty percent of the population has a predisposition to traveling. Wanderlust is in their genes. I think I have this gene. My parents have been all over the world and I, myself, have traveled on three continents. I’ve logged in time in probably three-quarters of the states in the union (at least, maybe more) plus the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Airports energize me. I love the chaos and the smell of jet fuel. Airports mean travel. Not everyone there is destined for their dream vacation, but I can imagine they are. Having never traveled for work, airports, for me, always mean a fun destination. They mean leaving real life behind for a while and walking a different path, seeing new things.
But there is also something about getting in the car and just driving. Getting out of our forest-lined, albeit beautiful, Pacific Northwest landscapes and seeing the scene change to wide open skies anchored by golden hills does something for my soul. It’s freeing. Relaxing. Energizing.
Last week, Joe and I drove. We had loose plans, but nothing concrete. We had just said good-bye to our two youngest kids, both off to college in Oregon, the youngest for the first time. In order to avoid a quiet house for a while, we allowed ourselves a week to see new things. We had an absolute blast.
Our trek took us through Spokane and Idaho into Montana where we stopped at most of the small towns we went through. We discovered copper in Butte and a formerly charming town in bad need of attention. We stayed in a historic stage stop in Nevada City, and just up the road was historic Virginia City where we walked the paths of gold miners and ate the best meal of our trip alongside ranchers and outdoor adventurers.
We got our cowboy on in Ennis and Bozeman, Montana, then spent the night in a motor inn like true rodeo performers in Cody, Wyoming where we paid homage to Joe’s dad, a talented rodeo cowboy in his younger years.
Our whims took us to Yellowstone for a day and we covered the part of the park we hadn’t been to before. Bison gave us quite a show several times and the awe of walking in an active volcano was stunning at times.
Back in Montana, we discovered more small towns like Dillon, where we ate our best lunch, and the ghost town of Bannack, a skeleton of what it once was, but perfectly authentic and accessible. We got a good feel of what the wild west felt like in this wonderfully preserved state park.
Twin Falls, Idaho treated us to the sport of BASE jumping, as spectators. We watched daring athletes pack their chutes then jump off the Perrine Bridge into the beautiful Snake River canyon, the only place in the world they can jump year round without a permit.
Headed back home, we saw more small towns when the need to stop for fuel or food arose, towns with a history like Boise, Baker City, and Pendleton. Each one had a little something special about it.
As the vistas changed and we headed back into the forest tunnel of Western Washington, my wanderlust gene felt satisfied. For now. And as we moved further west toward home, we talked about where our car would take us next time. Because for those of us with the gene, next time can’t come soon enough.
Our family recently took a trip to San Diego, just because. I’ve had people ask why we chose that city because it’s really not an obvious vacation destination. But we love beaches and we wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. We chose well.
Not having been there before, I wasn’t really sure where to stay, but I kept coming back to a particular condo on a beach (literally!) I had never heard of, Imperial Beach. We took a chance and booked it. It payed off in spades…we loved this town. It’s a small beach town south of Coronado, just four miles from the Mexican border. It’s beachy in a sandy, surfer kind of way with surf shops, taco stands, a pier with countless fishermen on it, a beautiful sandy beach, and Hawaii-like surf.
Our first hour there we saw dolphins cresting the waves and watched a guy pull a stingray out of the water onto the pier (this was about 45 minutes worth of entertainment). In the following days, we played in the warm surf on boogie boards for hours, got a little burnt in the not-too-hot-but-just-right sunshine, ate way too many fish tacos, marveled at wide-open sunsets, and enjoyed people watching from the beach and from our condo’s deck.
The city of San Diego has so much to offer. We did a day at the Zoo which was maybe our favorite destination, and the beautiful pandas were our favorite habitat. We spent a day at Sea World which was a bit touristy-feeling, but worth it once. An evening in the Gaslamp District led us to find a charming Italian restaurant, Panevino, where the servers were the real deal as was the food. Father’s Day was spent on the USS Midway where we all received multiple history lessons and enjoyed exploring the fascinating aircraft carrier. We spent some time in Old Town, one of the first settlements in California, and liked it so much we went back again for some amazing Mexican food. One of my favorite afternoons was spent strolling around the Hotel del Coronado and the town of Coronado itself. It’s every bit as glamorous and charming as the novels I’ve read depicted.
But we began and ended our trip at the beach, along with a day or two in between all the other activities. If we only had the beach, we would be happy. The other things are just bonuses. And now we can add another happy place to the list. We hope to return again someday, but maybe there are more happy places to discover first.
My youngest child has 16 days of high school left. Ever. She’s our third so we’ve been through this before, but we always had another one following behind to occupy our attention. This time, every milestone is a last:
The last football game she cheered at, then the last basketball game, then the last cheer competition which was truly the last time she will wear the uniform.
The last track meet.
The last choir concert.
The last prom.
Soon we will be attending the last high school graduation, then taking her off to college…our last to leave home.
But her graduation coincides with a first—our first college graduation, that of our oldest daughter.
And many more firsts will follow in the next few years, I’m sure:
The first full-time job.
The first apartment.
The first to bring home a future spouse for dinner.
The first vacation for Joe and I alone, not to get away from our kids, but because they can’t join us.
Our lives have been full the past years, and we will miss every moment of chaos. But maybe we will have time to slow down and savor the next round of lasts and firsts in this next season of life.
I’m looking forward to it, with a few tears mixed in. I am blessed.
A new year is a great time to take inventory of our priorities, set goals and dream big. Sometimes our plans are large and life-changing, like choosing a college, changing careers, or relocating to a new neighborhood. But sometimes it’s the little things added up together that make the biggest impact, like an impromptu walk to Starbucks with a child, turning off the TV and playing a game, or a quiet conversation over a great glass of wine. These are the moments that define life.
Recently, I spent the day with a friend who wanted to take me beach glass hunting. We had been talking of this day trip for a couple of years and finally decided to make it happen. After a peaceful ferry ride on a spectacular fall day, we drove to North Beach near Port Townsend, a quiet beach notorious for its bountiful beach glass.
As I started hunting, I was disappointed that there weren’t large chunks of glass lying in wait for me to pick them up…I had always thought that beach glass only consisted of healthy-sized pieces. No, what we hunted for were tiny, gem-sized bits that, put together in a clear bag, made for a good-sized handful of sparkling, beautiful color. The slower we went, the more we found, sometimes sifting through handfuls of sand and pebbles to find the treasures. There were people on the beach who had collected large bags of these little pieces of color and when grouped together, they were stunning. Big pieces were rare, but the small pieces were bountiful if we took the time to look hard enough.
This year, we have some large, life-changing events happening in our family that will move us into a different phase of life. Because school graduations don’t happen often but tend to alter life dramatically when they do, and we have two of them, I plan to do what I can to look beyond those large pieces of glass, sift through the pebbles, and search for the little gems, those snatches of time that are so precious. Added up, these are what give sparkle and color to life.
And life will be more beautiful because we slowed down and took the time to find the gems.
Those of you who know us know we are no strangers to Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. Since I was 10 years old, my family has been frequenting the island. Most of the time, we keep to the beach, not wanting to leave it when the weather is nice. But occasionally we will venture out to browse the quaint towns of Langley or Coupeville, explore Fort Casey, or tour one of many local wineries.
Sometimes, though, we long for something different. Something not so ordinary. If you have been to Whidbey, you have no doubt passed through the town of Greenbank, maybe without realizing it. This tiny town is one easily overlooked when cruising up the highway, but sometimes treasures are hidden in the most obvious of places, right alongside the beaten path.
The Greenbank Farm was started in 1904 and was once the world’s largest loganberry farm. Today you can wander through the old fields on an easy hiking trail (dogs off-leash permitted!), taking in a beautiful view of the farm and the Puget Sound. Stroll down to the farm itself where you will find a wine shop, a cheese shop, several art galleries featuring local artists, and most importantly, Whidbey Pies which makes delicious fruit pies in a variety of flavors including, of course, the infamous loganberry. Don’t tell Grandma, but theirs might be better! The picturesque farm also features beautiful gardens and ponds, and a barn that can accommodate weddings and parties.
Up the road a ways is the Greenbank Store. Also opened in 1904, it features a market and a full-service restaurant, but the real gem here is the deli in the back of the market. They make custom sandwiches the old-fashioned way, reasonably priced with lots of fresh ingredients. You can take it to go if you have planned another outing for your day, or eat it right there with the locals in the back of the store. When ordering, be sure and check the box “dill pickle” at the bottom of the order sheet (you fill out your own). At no extra charge, you will be given a large slice of a delicious pickle…but you have to ask for it.
Round out your visit to Greenbank with a tasting at Holmes Harbor Cellars. Family-owned, this picturesque vineyard released their first wines in 2008. Tour the European-inspired tasting room on the 20-acre estate and sample award-winning wines made from grapes grown in the Yakima and Walla Walla valleys.
Sometimes the best adventures in life are the ones that aren’t so ordinary. So on your next visit to Whidbey Island, stay on the beaten path, looking just to the side of it, and find a hidden treasure.
I’m often asked, “When is the best time to sell a house?” Most people think spring is “real estate season” and according to a recent Zillow report, they would be right. May 1st through 15th is statistically the best time to sell, nationally and locally. The factors that go into this data would include fewer days on market and higher sales prices.
But what if you aren’t ready to sell your home on May 1st? What if you are suddenly relocated by your company on September 1st? Or December 15th? Or what if your heart doesn’t tell you the time is right until January 31st?
Then September or December or January is the best time for you to sell. People buy houses all the time. They aren’t limited to the season and they have reasons to be looking at all times of the year. Joe and I have sold houses the day before Thanksgiving and the week after Christmas. Life happens!
However, if you are thinking of selling, now is a good time to put those thoughts into action. Many people do look for homes in the spring because they are wanting to be in their new home before school starts in the fall. Or they want to move in warmer weather. Or their perception is that there is more inventory available (which there often is) so they get pre-approved with a lender in order to search in earnest.
Whatever your reason and whenever you are ready, I’m only a phone call away. And while I don’t work on Thanksgiving or Christmas (a couple of days off a year is ok, right?), I’m always ready to answer your questions and help you get started.
Your time is always the best time.
Welcome to 2016. I feel like I should write something profound about how to make the most out of another year, or how to do something better, or lessons we learned from the Seahawks falling short of a third Superbowl bid (but we are extremely proud of our team!).
But I’m not coming up with anything really profound to share, except to say that in 2016 I want to enjoy my family as much as possible. All our kids are still with us and we know that time is short so Joe and I want to make the most of it. And what better way?
Eat more pizza!
Pizza is a food group in our family. We eat it together probably once a week, and the freezer is always full of the frozen variety. With crazy schedules, they often are baking at odd hours in our house.
But we also love to try it on our adventures and have eaten pizza on most of our trips and many spots around town. While we love the pies created by local chains like The Rock, Zeeks, or MOD, I would love to share with you our top three picks for independent pizza dives.
Number 3: Topolino's Pizza: located on NE 8th in Bellevue in one of the last remaining original strip malls, this true dive is probably better for take-out (there are only a couple of small tables). Traditional Brooklyn-style pizza is served (also available on gluten-free crust) along with salads, subs, pasta and calzones. Try the Topolino’s Special, a combination of all the good stuff.
Number 2: Flying Pie Pizza: Joe and I first tasted Flying Pie in Portland while we were in college (so we’ve broken the one-off rule a bit here). In 1997, they opened a store in downtown Issaquah (also in an old strip mall) and once we discovered it, it became a family favorite. The toppings are chunky and piled high—after a slice or two of this pie, you are stuffed! Try one of the combos (and they have gluten-free crust as well). Get your soda by the pitcher, enjoy the salad bar, and have fun hanging out with friends in this good old-fashioned dive.
Number 1 (drumroll!!): Village Pizzeria: our absolute favorite! Village is located in Langley on Whidbey Island (our happy place!) and has recently expanded to include an entire glass line with spectacular views of the Sound. But even before they had the prime spot in town for whale watching, we loved their pizza. It’s true New York-style (the owner is from there), they only take cash, and they don’t have a website so you’ll have to take my word for it. We love the Combination (as you can tell) but our absolute favorite, and their specialty, is their Pesto Pizza (pictured). It’s layered with thick, molten mozzarella and drizzled with an outstanding, garlicy pesto. One bite and not only have you lost a layer off the roof of your mouth (that’s required with any great pizza), but you will think you have tasted heaven. They sell their pizza by the pie or you can also get it by the slice if you need a snack while perusing the charming town. In the summer, couple your slice with a house salad (they make, and sell, their own yummy dressing) and enjoy the outdoor patio overlooking the water.
So there you go. Our favorite pies. What’s yours? We will want to try it!