Five Things to Enjoy on the Big Island

Chris and I are restless travelers.  For us, exploring is more relaxing than sitting poolside with a mai tai.  We’d rather be on a road trip than trapped in a resort.  And if there’s a crowd, we can usually be seen walking in the opposite direction – unless it means we’ve found a really good farmers market.

So this is why we choose the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, when we crave a tropical sun break.


What is the Big Island?

Before I explain why we love the Big Island, I should clear up any confusion.  People often think that the term “the Big Island” refers to the island of Oahu, presumably because Oahu is home to the state’s biggest city, Honolulu, with its touristy Waikiki strip.  But the term “the Big Island” is actually a nickname for a different island:  The island of Hawaii.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the island of Hawaii and the state of Hawaii share the same name.

The island of Hawaii really lives up to its “Big Island” nickname.  Its land mass is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined.  The terrain is diverse and includes arid lava fields, snow-capped mountains, tropical rain forests, high-country ranch lands, lush plantations, and Volcanoes National Park.

You may have heard that the Big Island isn’t for everyone, and that is true.  Some folks cite its shortage of white sand beaches as the reason to visit Maui or Oahu instead.  There are long drive times between sites (for example, the drive between the city of Kailua-Kona and Volcanoes National Park takes two to three hours).

And the Big Island’s acres and acres of lava fields can seem barren and unwelcoming.

Chris conquers a lava field

But we’ve learned to love the lava fields because hiking them can lead to some beautiful and secluded black sand beaches, snorkeling coves, or other natural treasures.

Since we just returned from another trip to the Big Island, I thought I would share the top five things that we look for when we visit.

1  Historic Sites

On the island of Hawaii, learning about native culture rarely includes a visit to a stuffy museum.  Heritage sites are fun and fascinating.  One of my favorites is a National Historic Park called Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau – or the Place of Refuge.  I won’t give away why it’s called that, but it’s a gorgeous and peaceful place to visit.

Tikis at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau

2 The Green Flash

On the west side of the island, the sun sets over the water.  Sunsets are legendary here, so much so that in Kona it’s not uncommon for restaurant patrons to applaud after seeing a particularly spectacular one.

A sunset in Kona

Ever since our first visit to the Big Island, we’d heard about a phenomenon called the green flash.  Apparently, when atmospheric conditions are just right, the sun gives off a quick green flash just before it disappears into the horizon.

But try as we might, we’d never seen the green flash for ourselves.  Never, that is, until our most recent visit.  So now I can say with confidence that the green flash is not a legend.  It is real!

Looking for the green flash is only half the fun.  Whether on a beach, a seawall, the deck of a condo, or a fun outdoor restaurant, sunsets are a wonder to take in.

A band setting up for a sunset concert at a Kona restaurant.

3 Coffee Farms

The Big Island is the land of the coffee bean.  Over 650 coffee farms, large and small, occupy the hillsides above Kona.  Many of them welcome the public, and we try to find a new one every time we visit the island.

Trellised coffee plants at Kona Joe Coffee Farm

In addition to coffee plants, fruit trees and flowering shrubs keep things interesting.

A banana tree makes a fine house for a gecko at Greenwell Coffee Plantation

Yes we love coffee.  But most farms, by virtue of the where they are situated, also have sweeping views down the hillsides to the ocean.  They are lovely, relaxing places to visit – and to sample coffee.

A cafe with a view at Kona Joe Coffee Farm

4 Solitude

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Whether a beautiful deserted road, a beach where turtles stop to sun themselves, or a deserted cove with good snorkeling, it is possible to find peace and solitude on the Big island.

Pahoa-Pohoiki Road
Sea turtles near Kiholo Bay

Some places are easier to get to than others.  We find ourselves hiking over lava fields much of the time.  But how do we even know about these out-of-the-way treasures?

On our first visit, we discovered the book Hawaii The Big Island Revealed by Andrew Doughty (make sure to find the most recent edition).

To us, “the book,” as we call it now, is like having a local tell us, in hushed whispers, where we can find the island’s hidden treasures.  And more than that – entertaining us with backstories, history, and amusing anecdotes.

Makalawena Beach

In pursuit of out-of-the-way gems, the book sometimes suggests hikes on (to put it mildly) uneven terrain, and it sometimes suggests activities, such as kayaking, that are dependent upon ocean conditions being safe enough.  So we are careful and make sure not to bite off more than we can chew.

(By the way, Andrew Doughty has written similar guide books for the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.)

5 Farmers Markets

I always look forward to visiting the farmers markets.  We like to be adventurous and buy fruits we haven’t tried before – even the ones that look prickly and menacing.  Vendors are usually good about describing a fruit’s taste (sometimes samples are available) and advising us on the best way to enjoy it.

Farmers markets are also great places to get locally made art and gifts.  There are several nice farmers markets, but my personal favorite is the one in Hilo.  Wednesdays and Saturdays are the best days to visit.

And this time we discovered the Pure Kona Green Market, which takes place on Sundays in Captain Cook and features many local artists and live entertainment.

Til Next Time

Missile scares notwithstanding, we had a lot of fun on our recent visit to the Big Island.  We’ve since left the land of sunshine and pineapples behind and returned to our home of rain and pinecones.  And while there is a certain charm to the pinecones, we’re always looking forward to our next escape to the Big Island.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only.

What I read on the plane:

Prarie Fires:  The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser.  I may have been headed to and from Hawaii, but I was completely immersed in the frozen prairies of the Dakotas in the 1800s.  Using the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder and others, Caroline Fraser fleshes out the harsh reality behind the softened stories told by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her Little House books.

I read about half of the book during our plane rides.  Because of the hardships that the Ingalls family (and all farmers in the Dakotas at that time) had to endure, Prairie Fires was not always an easy read for me.  But I marvel at the strength and endurance of these early settlers.  Let’s just say I won’t be so quick to grumble the next time there is too much foam in my latte or my laptop is a little slow.

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Lobsters, Lanterns, and Paul Revere

My husband Chris and I are pretty sensible people.  We tend to plan and think things through – usually.  But if you’ve ever read my About page, you know that our decision to buy our 1927 cottage was impulsive and driven by passion rather than reason.

And so was our recent trip back east.

It all happened because of Chris’s latest obsession:  Collecting and restoring vintage Coleman lanterns.

Turns out there’s a club for that – the International Coleman Collectors Club (or “ICCC”).  And just a few weeks ago, Chris found out that they were about to have their annual convention.  In Massachusetts.  A five hour flight for us.

Chris asked me if I’d go with him.

I booked our flights before he could change his mind.

But of course, I told him, we couldn’t go all that way just for the convention.  That would be silly.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to check a couple more things off my bucket list.

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor

I feel so fortunate to live on the West Coast where we enjoy beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

The last rays of sun at Grayland Beach State Park in Washington State.

But I’m always curious about that “other” big ocean way across the country where the sun rises.  Maine in particular seemed so intriguing and romantic to me:  Rugged coastlines, old lighthouses, grizzled fishermen, colorful buoys – and Acadia National Park.

So as soon as our plane landed in Boston, we headed up the coast to the village of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine

I didn’t really have time to research Bar Harbor before our trip.  I’d always pictured it as rustic and weathered:  Crusty fishermen wearing heavy wool sweaters and pulling lobster traps off their boats.

But it was more gentrified than that:  Lots of great shops and restaurants, and many intriguing lodging options.

Eventually I did find my colorful buoys.

Bar Harbor, Maine

The best part is that Bar Harbor is at the entrance to Acadia National Park.

As national parks go, Acadia is small.  But there’s a lot to see.  On our first day in the park, we enjoyed the rugged coastline.

We caught a glimpse of the remote Egg Island Lighthouse before a heavy blanket of fog moved in.

Egg Island Lighthouse, Maine

And watched water rush through Thunder Hole.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park, Maine

We took a murky hike to the summit of Gorham Mountain – all 525 feet.  We learned that these mountains were once much taller, but over the ages erosion has worn them down to their granite bases.

I liked that we got to experience the Maine fog, even if it meant missing the views.

The next day the sun came out, and we made up for lost time.

We hiked at Cadillac Mountain.

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

We explored the carriage roads and magnificent stone bridges at Logan Pond.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr had these roads and bridges built when he owned the land.

Carriage Road, Acadia National Park, Maine

Carriage Road Bridge, Acadia National Park, Maine

And we visited the Bass Harbor lighthouse.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Maine

This part of Maine smells so good.  Everywhere we went, we were either smelling the fresh ocean air or the fragrant balsam fir.

The L.L.Bean headquarters are a few hours south of Bar Harbor in Freeport, Maine.  There are several  L.L.Bean stores located there and, when we walked into the first one, there it was again:  That smell of balsam fir.  So I bought it to take home.

I’m looking forward to making sachets with the large bag of balsam fir needles.

We also found a drying rack for our laundry room at an antique store.  It’s still working its way across the country to its new home on the West Coast.

But it’s time to move on to the world of vintage lanterns.

All Things Coleman

We headed to rural, inland Massachusetts – to the tiny town of Winchendon.  Here, collectors of all things Coleman, but especially vintage lanterns, were having their annual convention at the senior center.

Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, where our architecture is relatively new, I imagined the senior center to be a dated one-story  building with dingy linoleum floors.

Here is what I found.

Old Murdock Senior Center

The Old Murdock Senior Center was built in the 1880s and was originally a public high school.

Old Murdock Senior Center

In the auditorium, Coleman collectors from around the world shared their treasures, their stories, and their knowledge.

Vintage Coleman

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

From the unusual to the rustic, it was all here.

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

One of the first Coleman lanterns: An Arc lantern, circa 1915.

We were newcomers to the club, and everyone was so welcoming. On the second evening, we joined them in a “light up” outside the senior center.  It was their way of honoring members who had passed – and it was beautiful.

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

But it was almost time to fly home, and we were only about an hour and a half from Boston.


We’d visited Boston before, and I just have to say that I love Boston. I love the architecture, the people, and most of all the history.  This is where it all began for the United States.

On our previous visit, we only saw the first part of Boston’s Freedom Trail.  So this time we started at Bunker Hill Monument and worked our way back to Paul Revere Square.

We toured the USS Constitution.  “Old Ironsides,” as they call her, is actually made of live oak.

UCC Constitution

Launched in 1797, she was the second battleship ever to be built for the U.S. Navy.  And she fought pirates.

USS Constitution

No trip to Boston is complete without a visit to a colonial-era graveyard.  We visited Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.  Some of the deceased buried here were born in the 1500s!

Colonial Graveyard, Boston

I loved the timing of our Boston visit:  Right before the 4th of July. There is no better reminder of what Independence Day is really about than touring the Old North Church, where the “one if by land, two if by sea” signal was sent from.

Old North Churck

And admiring a bronze statue of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere and St. Stephens Church

So, to my American readers, Happy Independence Day!

And liberty forever.


A cannon port on the USS Constitution

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  • Chris loves collecting vintage Coleman lanterns because he enjoys searching for them, and often the ones he finds are very affordable.  They don’ take up much space to store or display.  Etsy always seems to have a fun selection of all things Coleman.   Remember though that there is a lot to learn about safely lighting these lanterns.  Please use caution and do your research.
  • The drying rack I found at the antique store is probably not an antique.  But I love it because it’s expandable, and it has a shelf and pegs for more storage.  It look almost exactly like this one on
  • The fragrance of balsam fir comes in many forms.  Now I wish I’d bought the adorable cabin incense burner.  I still might.

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Two Days in Victoria B.C.

Recently my mom, Erika, and I made a short visit to Victoria, British Columbia.  Since we live in Western Washington, we’d both visited Victoria many times over the years.

The city is named after Queen Victoria – and the British influence is strong here.

We were looking forward to visiting some of our favorite sights – the Empress Hotel, the Inner Harbour, Chinatown, and stunning Butchart Gardens.

Victoria is a user-friendly, walkable city, but this time we decided to broaden our options by renting a car.

Maybe it was good that we only had a cartoon-like tourist map, no in-car navigation system, and no cellphone reception. Because while trying to find things, we sometimes stumbled upon unexpected gems.

So today I’m pairing each of my old favorite sights with a hidden gem.

Old Favorite: Butchart Gardens

The concept of Butchart Gardens began over 100 years ago and it evolved over the course of many years.  Today it’s a paradise filled with inspiration for any gardener.

Its Sunken Garden is the site of an old limestone quarry.

There is also a Mediterranean Garden,

a Japanese Garden, and a Rose Garden.

As in many gardens, the best things sometimes happen by accident – like flower petals littering a pond.

The gardens are constantly changing with the seasons, so each visit to Butchart Gardens is unique.

Hidden Gem:  Scenic Marine Drive

Butchart Gardens is a bit of a drive from downtown Victoria.  Most visitors arrive via tour bus.  But since we were driving, we decided to design our own route to the gardens – a bit windy but worth it.

We took Scenic Marine Drive, which starts near downtown Victoria on Dallas Road – a few blocks behind the Parliament Building.  From there we drove up the coastline for several gorgeous miles before we headed inland and cut over to Butchart Gardens.

I didn’t get any photos, but we passed beautiful beaches and trails. We also saw some of the nicest homes  and neighborhoods in Victoria.  Taking this drive will cure anyone of the notion that Victoria is just a British-themed tourist town.

We relied on our tourist cartoon map and everything turned out okay.  But for this journey I would advise either having a navigation system or a much better map.

Old Favorite:  The Inner Harbour

One of the best places to sightsee and people watch, the Inner Harbour is the heart of downtown Victoria.

Surrounding it is the Empress Hotel

and the Parliament Building.

This is the kind of place where couples hold hands.  And they don’t walk – they stroll. Old world charm abounds, and no one wants to miss anything.

Hidden Gem:  Fisherman’s Wharf

But a more colorful and quirky marina is found at Fisherman’s Wharf, a short drive (or about a 20-minute walk) from the harbour steps.  It’s also reachable by water taxi.

Colorful restaurants serve seafood in a casual al fresco environment. Equally colorful is the eclectic mix of houseboats.

And the locals are friendly (just don’t feed them).

Old Favorite:  Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is a quick uphill drive from downtown Victoria.  The castle was built in the 1890s by the prominent and wealthy Dunsmuir Famiy.  And what a castle it is.

Touring the castle is a great way to see how the upper class lived in Victorian times in . . . well . . . Victoria.

A large lawn surrounds the castle, but there’s not much of a garden.  The neighborhood is beautiful, with so many old craftsman mansions.

So after touring the castle,  Mom and I decided to just drive around.  And we happened upon a beautiful garden – one that really should be married to the castle.

Hidden Gem:  The Government House Gardens

The Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.  I was jaded after visiting Craigdarroch Castle, so I didn’t find the Government House itself to be a particularly appealing.

But its extensive gardens certainly are.

Much of the garden is nestled into a rocky landscape.  But instead of fighting the rocks, the garden blends with them.


There is also a formal rose garden.

And lush plant combinations.

Two More Classics

For a first-time visitor to Victoria, two other downtown stops worth seeing are


It’s small, but it’s the second-oldest Chinatown in North America.  It’s noisy and colorful.

You never know what you’ll find in the alleyways.

The Empress Hotel

I think of the Inner Harbour as a crown, and the Empress Hotel as its crown jewel.

The old-world elegance is tangible here, especially in contrast to Chinatown.

The Empress is worth a visit – even if  it isn’t as accessible to the public as it used to be.

I remember as a kid sitting in the grand lobby of the Empress and writing post cards – even though we weren’t actually staying there.  Back then, anyone could go in and soak up the atmosphere.

The lobby has since been converted to a lovely tea room.

Beyond the tea room is a casually elegant restaurant/lounge where Mom and I enjoyed a nice lunch.

Goodbye For Now, Victoria

Despite visiting many sights during our two days, we never felt rushed.

At the end of our stay, the cartoon map was tattered and torn.  And I sadly handed in the keys to our tiny “economy level” Yaris. (The Rollerskate, as we were starting to call it).

Our days of finding hidden gems are over – for now.

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Three Small Towns Near Sedona

Recently, Chris and I visited the Sedona area in Arizona.  We’d always heard that the hiking there was great, and we weren’t disappointed.

We hiked the beautiful red hills that surround the town.


And we explored the cliff dwellings and petroglyphs left by the Sinagua people who occupied the area more than 1200 years ago.

Cliff Dwellings at the Palatki Ruins
Petroglyphs at the Palatki Ruins

Neither of us had been to the Grand Canyon before, and it was only a few hours from Sedona.

The Grand Canyon

Meanwhile, back in Sedona, reservations were essential at almost every popular restaurant.  There were spas, resorts, and upscale shops.  There was everything that a tourist could want.

But that just wasn’t enough for me.  I’m the weirdo who wants to duck under the velvet rope and see what’s behind the curtain.  I always have to find a story.

So we found three little towns near Sedona with stories to tell.


We didn’t actually stay in Sedona.  Thanks to Airbnb, we found a charming one-bedroom bungalow in the nearby town of Clarkdale for less than similar lodging in Sedona would have cost.

After we settled in, we sipped wine on the front porch and watched the neighbor’s chickens stroll through the front yard.

Little House Historic Cottage

But on our first walk around around the quiet neighborhood, we noticed something interesting:  Almost every house was a version of our house.  They were all the same one-bedroom bungalow.  Blocks and blocks of them.

Some had been added on to or altered over the years.  And every paint job was different.  But it was obvious that at one time they had all been almost identical.

Every now and again the pattern was interrupted by a different, and slightly larger, Craftsman-era house.  And some blocks had only the same repeating Spanish-style bungalow.

A chat with a local confirmed what we were beginning to suspect: Clarkdale was built as a company town.  It was founded in 1912 to house employees of a large copper smelter.

We learned there were several styles of repeating cottages, including Spanish Colonial, Craftsman, Tudor Revival, English Cottage Revival, and Eclectic.  Most were built between 1914 and the mid-1930s.

What a fun little town!  This brochure has photos of the different house styles.

Downtown Clarkdale is small.

But it’s home to the Arizona Copper Art Museum.

And the train station for the Verde Canyon Railroad – a pleasant four-hour train ride through beautiful, rugged countryside that is otherwise inaccessible.

Verde Canyon Railroad

And the bungalows and cottages weren’t the first buildings in Clarkdale.  It’s also home to the Tuzigoot National Monument, an ancient pueblo that unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore.


So Clarkdale is where the copper was smelted.  But where did that copper come from?  Nearby Jerome.

Perched precariously on a hillside, many buildings in Jerome seem ready to slide.  And some have.

In the early 1900s, Jerome was a bustling mining town of over 10,000.  But by the 1950s, it had become Arizona’s largest ghost town.

Today, Jerome is a colorful tourist stop with a strong and active art community.

But despite the galleries, studios, shops, and restaurants, that old ghost town remains.  These days, artists and ghosts live side by side.

A ruined building stands sentry over a glass blower’s studio.

Raku Gallery/ La Victoria glass blowing studio

Visitors toss coins into the skeleton of the Bartlett Hotel.  In the 1930s, the hotel was declared unstable because of slides.   It was slowly picked apart for salvage, and today this is all that remains.

We visited Jerome State Historic Park, which includes a nice local history museum in the Douglas Mansion.

Remnants of Jerome’s mining past sit idly outside the mansion.


Down the road a bit, a tiny pocket park encloses the 900-foot-deep Audrey Shaft of the Little Daisy Mine.

Looking down into the Audrey Shaft.

And this is how miners got down there – basically in a big tin can!

But it’s time to say goodbye to the ghosts of Jerome and head over to nearby Cottonwood.


The greater Cottonwood area includes conveniences like large grocery stores and big box home stores.  But for a charming diversion into yesteryear, there is Old Town Cottonwood.

Formerly a farming community, Cottonwood today has restaurants, shops, galleries, and antique stores.

We enjoyed the relaxed, retro vibe.  And we never knew what kind of old architectural detail we’d discover just by going into a coffee shop.

Old Town Cafe, Cottonwood

So would we visit this area again?  Absolutely.  There is much more to see.

But there are a few things we will do differently next time.  Here is a breakdown of what we did wrong and what we did right.

What we will do differently:

  • Allow more time to get to and through the airport (we nearly missed our flight).
  • Book the flight for when there isn’t a special event causing crowding at the airport and slowing airport security screening (see above).
  • Bring binoculars!
  • Rent a 4-wheel drive.  Roads to some of the best hikes are unpaved and bumpy.
  • Stay longer – and plan more time for the Grand Canyon.

What we did right:

  • Found a “home base” that really felt like home – that bungalow in Clarkdale.
  • Checked the weather forecast for Sedona before we left home and made sure we brought appropriate clothing.  We were prepared when it snowed on one of our hikes!

  • Visited an old friend on the way back to the airport in Phoenix.  She took us on a beautiful desert hike.  It’s always good to catch up with old friends when you can.
Saguaro Cacti
  • Brought only carry-on luggage.   We always do this, and good thing this time or we would have missed that flight.

How I Make Using Carry-On Luggage Easier

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Not everyone can or wants to travel with only carry-on luggage, but in case you are interested, here are a couple of small ways I make it more pleasant:

I pack simple, wrinkle-resistant clothes.  I place them into a 17  X 12 packing cube.

It fits perfectly into my carry-on case.  I toss in a small bamboo charcoal air freshener to keep my clothes smelling fresh during transport.

Of course I pack things under and on top of the packing cube to make the most of the space I have.  And I take a medium-sized day pack as my other piece of carry-on.

When I get to my destination, I just put the packing cube in a dresser drawer in the bedroom and unzip it, and voilà! My clothes are unpacked.

I also toss the charcoal air freshener into the drawer to keep my clothes fresh.

This works especially well on road trips where I’m staying somewhere different every night.  Keeping the clothes in the packing cube, I can easily plunk them into a drawer in the evening and them put them back into the suitcase the next morning.  Then it’s off to the next destination.

It just feels more civilized than living out of a suitcase – yet it takes almost no time.

Of course, packing cubes come in many sizes and are also handy for larger checked luggage.

And after I get home and unpack, the air freshener stays in my empty suitcase to keep it fresh until the next time I travel.

Which I hope will be soon.

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The June Bug Heads to Yosemite

Back in July, I talked about the makeover of our 1966 Airstream Caravel (aka “the June Bug”).  I also shared a bit about our brief camping trip to Deception Pass State Park.

Airstream Caravel with chili pepper lights

That trip was trial run to work out any glitches before our September road trip to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite has been on my bucket list for a long time, and since we just returned I thought I would share a bit about that gorgeous place.

But first, a couple of recent improvements to the June Bug.

The June Bug:  A Work in Progress

With a vintage trailer, there is always something that needs fixing, doing, or improving.  So before our Yosemite trip, we ticked a couple of little things off of our “to do” list.

New Curtains

I’ve always disliked heavy, light-blocking window coverings.  For years I’d been meaning to do something about the curtains in the June Bug.

curtains over banquette

Good quality, but a little too drab and heavy for my liking.  In such a small space, we need to bring light in, not block it .

And I wanted something whimsical.  We only use the trailer a few weeks a year, so why not have some fun with it?

Of course there is no finding ready-made curtains for a 1966 Airstream.  But sewing them was easy. We chose an inexpensive calico print with ladybugs and daisies.


Because the interior walls curve, we have a cable system to secure the curtains at the top and the bottom.  It’s similar to the system that we used for our burlap greenhouse shades.

I think the curtains also look sweet from the outside.

Trailer exterior with curtains

A New Kitchen Faucet

The trailer came with a very small kitchen sink and faucet.  We recently replaced the sink with a larger one, but that silly little faucet remained.  It was almost impossible to rinse pots and pans.

Sink with old faucet

So right before our road trip, we replaced it with a larger bar faucet.

Upgraded faucet

So much better.

Now were were ready to hit the road!  Hopefully.  With a vintage trailer, you never really know.

On the Way – Sort of

We headed south from Washington State but veered west to spend the first evening at Nehalem Bay State Park on the always-breathtaking Oregon coast.

Oregon coast sunset

Chris immediately set up one of the vintage lanterns that he has been collecting.

Coleman lantern in vintage airstream

Big Trees

Our next big stop was at Calaveras State Park in California, home to giant sequoias.  They are some of the oldest living things on Earth.

Giant sequoia


The June Bug is only 17 feet long, so we sacrifice living space but gain convenience.  I think it’s a great trade off because we can camp in sites that are often inaccessible to larger RVs.

Chris had researched the various campgrounds at Yosemite and White Wolf was high on his list.

Initially, I was not thrilled to learn that White Wolf had no “facilities,” as far as water and electrical hookups, at the camp sites.  But we had a generator and propane, so it didn’t really matter.

And any reservations I had dissolved once saw the campground. Located at 8,000 feet, the camp sites were nestled among granite boulders.  The air smelled wonderful.  There was just something magical about this place.

White Wolf campground

And it was a great hub for enjoying high-country day hikes.

Of course it got cold at night, so a crackling campfire was always a plus and sometimes brought us visitors from other camp sites.

trailer at white wolf

These high-country campgrounds are open only a few months of the year.  By the time this post is published, all the tents and RVs will be gone, leaving nature to reclaim White Wolf until next summer.

The Little Things Matter

At Yosemite, everything seemed big to me.  The mountains were right there, and they were huge.  We learned that the towering El Capitan is the largest solid granite rock in the world.

But we also learned this fun little factoid:

Chipmunk, right?

golden mantled ground squirrel

Wrong.  He’s a golden-mantled ground squirrel.

This sporty little guy is a chipmunk.


And he looks slightly insulted by our mistake.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to post any iconic big picture photos of Yosemite here because you’ve already seen the best of them by the likes of Ansel Adams and other great photographers.

Instead I thought it would be fun to zoom in on some of the small things that often get overlooked.

Like this little trace of past human presence, perhaps from an old farm or ranch, on a valley floor hike.

Yosemite valley hike

Or a rusty directional sign on a high-country hiking trail.

Yosemite hikers sign

Farther down the trail, the waters of Lukens Lake were still.

Lukens Lake Yosemite

And on our hike to Mt. Hoffmann, I was surprised to find the dreamy May Lake High Sierra Camp – a remote hike-in camp for backpackers.

May Lake High Sierra Camp

This camp was already closed for the season, and a small crew was winding things down.

tent at May Lake

During breaks, they create art on an old chopping block behind the kitchen.


If you’re ever in Yosemite, I highly recommend a drive to Olmsted Point for sweeping views of the Sierra Nevadas.

And a walk among these otherworldly subalpine trees.

They are probably much older than they look.

Subalpine tree yosemite

Subalpine tree Olmsted Point Yosemite

One day we took a tour bus to the top of Glacier Point.  But we chose to hike back down.  There are two trails to choose from, and we chose the “Four-Mile Trail” which is actually almost five miles.

The switchbacks have old rock retaining walls which were likely installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

glacier point hike Yosemite

A Ghost Town

We had planned to stop at other parks on our way back to Washington State, but there was so much to see at Yosemite and we stayed there too long.

We did manage to make a few quick stops on the way home, and the most interesting one was outside Yosemite’s east entrance:  The ghost town of Bodie.

It is a true ghost town – in the middle of nowhere.  The road to Bodie stretches on for miles.

Road to Bodie

Bodie is now a historical park and is kept in a state of “managed decay.”

Inside the abandoned homes, dust is undisturbed.

Bodie lounger

Bodie crib

Water damage is not repaired.

Bodie living room

Weathered exteriors are not repainted.

Bodie doorways

Bodie - walthy residence

Life in Bodie’s heyday was probably so much simpler yet harsher than life today.  There were several funeral directors and undertakers in town, which tells you something about life – and death – in Bodie.

Time To Head Home

Whenever we take a road trip with the June Bug, it takes me a few days to adjust to living in such small quarters.  But after that, I wish we could just stay on the road forever.

rearview mirror

About These Photos

I’m considering framing some of my favorite photos from this road trip – especially since my goal is to start rotating my wall art from time to time.

And I’m kicking off Story Time, my new shop over at Søciety6 with a few of the photos posted here. So if you enjoyed any of these photos and would like your own art print, or if you just want to browse, pop over and have a look.

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Little Treasures in the Park

I love it when I stumble upon beautiful architecture in unlikely places.

In my last post, I talked about our vintage Airstream, which we took on a camping trip to Deception Pass State Park.  We camped in the park so that my husband, Chris, could be close to his volunteer work helping with a fish count in Bowman Bay.

Chris at fish count

And while he worked, I explored the bay.  As expected, I found tide pools, sweeping water vistas, seals, and birds.

But I wasn’t expecting stunning architecture with a link to the past. Right there among the clam shells and the picnic benches, a little window into the Great Depression opened for me.  And although I don’t usually post about U.S. history, I hope you’ll indulge me this time.

Hard Times, Strong People

My discovery began with this sign.

CCC Interpretive Center Sign

The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center is a nice mini-museum that, in a nutshell, tells a story of human resilience and of how beautiful things can come from desperate times.

It’s located in a former bathhouse built during the Great Depression.

CCC Interpretive Center

Its construction was part of a public work relief program under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Young men who joined the CCC worked on improving and developing government lands all across the country.  They stocked lakes and planted trees.  They learned valuable skills while constructing roads, canals, and bridges.

Beautiful Reminders

They also constructed recreational buildings like this one.  They built them with style, and they built them to last.  I love the heavy stone exterior of this building and the extra little detail of having the stones curve in before they meet the wooden crossbeam.

CCC Picnic Shelter

There were a few other gems sitting quietly among the trees.

My favorite was this recently restored – and pretty spectacular- picnic shelter.

CCC Picnic Shelter

CCC Picnic Shelter

The amount and the quality of the wood used in this place is staggering.  I can’t image a public picnic shelter like this being built today.

CCC Picnic Shelter

Family reunion in here?  Sign me up.

CCC Picnic Shelter interior

For a young man trying to weather the Great Depression, a CCC camp must have been a very desirable possibility indeed.  Workers were given wages, food, lodging, and medical care.

CCC Picnic Shelter interior

Most of the men working in the CCC were young – under 29 years of age.  Apparently they were quick studies because their craftsmanship was amazing.  At another nearby picnic shelter, stonework is the star of the show.

CCC Picnic Shelter

CCC Picnic Shelter

The CCC program only lasted about a decade, but it gave us so many little national treasures.  I see structures like these sprinkled in parks all over my home state of Washington, and I always find them intriguing.  Some are just restrooms, but they are the cutest and sturdiest restrooms you’ll ever see.

The best thing about these treasures is that they are accessible to all of us.   So next time you’re in a park, take a second look and see what little gem you find.

Disclosure:  Affiliate links used.


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March Floral Inspiration: The Skagit Valley Daffodil Fields

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.

Last month’s floral inspiration post featured a stunning floral sculpture – the result of one artist’s fanciful, intricate interpretation of a flowering tree. This month, we spin the dial in the opposite direction and visit the humble field daffodil before it is even plucked from the earth.  Well, not just one daffodil – fields and fields of them.

Yes, we are headed to Washington State’s Skagit Valley – home to some of the most prolific bulb farms in the U.S.  Most of these farms are owned by families that originated in Holland.

In April, many Washingtonians (including me) look forward to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, when the valley floor comes alive with colorful bands of blooming tulips.

tulips just starting to bloom - skagit valley
Tulips just starting to bloom in the Skagit Valley

Beating the Crowds

This popular attraction, now in its 33rd year, can get crowded.  So this year, I wanted to get ahead of the crowd and instead check out the La Conner Daffodil Festival, which takes place in March.  The driving route is almost identical to the tulip festival route, but the earlier-blooming daffodils are the main attraction.  Three major varieties of daffodils are grown in the fields.

Now, to convince my husband, Chris, to tiptoe through the, uh, daffodils with me, I had to throw in an element of adventure.

So I told him we could bike the daffodil route.

Heidi and Bikes - Daffodil fields of the Skagit Valley
Me with our bikes in the Skagit Valley

Our Day Among The Daffodils

We parked the car in La Conner, a quaint little town on the Swinomish Channel, and hopped on our bikes.

There was so much to see that it seemed we stopped every mile or so.

Red barn and daffodil fields
Chris in front of the red barn.

pastures, daffodil fields, and mountains

daffodil fields

Country setting

Biking the route was better than driving it because we really felt connected to the valley.  We could hear bird songs and see snow geese in the fields and hawks hovering overhead.

The Big Attractions

Our first big stop was Roozengaarde, a huge bulb farm with over 1,000 acres of fields growing tulips, daffodils and irises. Roozengaarde has a gift shop and a beautiful display garden.

Flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs at Roozengaarde
Flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs at Roozengaarde
Roozengaarde pink tulip
A short-stemmed tulip at Roozengaarde

Daffodils under a tree in Roozengaarde garden

Roozengaarde hyacynths
Hyacynths in the Roozengaarde display garden

And beyond the lawn behind the display garden, fields of daffodils seemed to stretch to the mountains.

Daffodil fields at RoozenGaarde with Mt. Baker in the background.
Roozengaarde daffodil field with Mt. Baker in the background

Next we rode to Tulip Town, another large farm that grows and sells bulbs and other perennials.  The fields of Tulip Town were starting to show signs of spectacular color to come.

Tulip Town ulip fields
Tulip fields at Tulip Town

By now we were starting to feel pressed for time, so we didn’t linger in Tulip Town as long as I would have liked.

Getting Distracted

We hit the road again.  And not that this has anything to do with daffodils, but we happened upon the cutest unexpected sight: Miniature donkeys!

miniature donkeys

The next stop was Christianson’s Nursery. This place really speaks to me because they have several historic structures on the nursery grounds that the owners have rescued from other locations.

My favorite is the Meadow School, built in 1888. It is still used for classes – gardening classes, that is, held by the nursery.

Meadow Schoolhouse Interior
Meadow School interior

I could have spent hours in their quaint gift shop.

Christianson's nursery gift shop
A gift shop at Christianson’s Nursery

And I also fell in love with their many vintage greenhouses, especially this one from the 1940s.

Christianson's nursery old greenhose

Christianson's nursery greenhouse interior

But we were getting hungry.  It was time to wrap up the 16-mile ride and head back to La Conner to find food.

Daffodils in the City

Flower vendors in Seattle’s Pike Place Market sell the fancier filled daffodils which come mostly from farms near the city of Carnation.

Pike Place Market flowers
Pike Place Market, Seattle

To me, their soft beauty rivals any peony or rose.

Filled daffodils

But I wanted to use regular field daffodils to fill this French pitcher* that Chris gave me for Christmas.

Field daffodils in blue pitcher

It took two grocery store bundles to fill the pitcher – $4 well spent.

*The blue pitcher is by Emile Henry.  This company specializes in kitchenware and bakeware.  For Christmas, Chris gave me a mix of vintage and new Emile Henry bakeware.  I love the look, the quality, and how easy the pieces are to clean.

Emile Henry is a French company, and most of their items are made in France.

A nice assortment of vintage Emile Henry can be found on Etsy.

orange emile henry
Photo courtesy of Coastal Maison

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Tips for a Beautiful Winter Garden

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


Last week, I promised that my next post would be about organizing. But the project I had in mind has snowballed, as they often do. And as I type this, the paint still has not dried on what promises to be a . . . well . . . unique little project.

But that’s okay, because this blog has not gone outside in a long time, and I have missed writing about gardening.  So grab your jacket and let’s go look at ways to give a garden some winter interest.

A Serene Urban Garden

We are heading over to a wonderful little garden: The Woodland Park Rose Garden in Seattle.  It was opened in 1924.  This photo from the 1950s highlights its classic, formal arrangement.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, image no. 18349-1, 1953
Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, image no. 18349-1, 1953

In summer, when everything is blooming, this garden is strikingly beautiful.

Rose Garden reflecting pool lily

And in winter, it still has a quiet allure.

Winter garden - reflecting pond

rose garden - winter garden

Rose garden - winter garden

I asked myself what gives this garden its winter appeal.  And I realized that the ways to a wonderful winter garden are easy to remember because they all begin with the letter “s.”


To have a garden that looks good year round and not just when flowers are blooming, you simply must have structure.  Structure is the visual framework that holds the garden together as the seasons change.

Structure can provide points of interest that catch the eye, or it can unify an entire garden.  Structure can be natural or man made.

Natural structure can be achieved with manicured and unmanicured plants and trees, large rocks, boulders, berms, and natural streams and ponds.

Man made structure includes gazebos, sheds, greenhouses, fences, garden walls, large pots and urns, statues and other art, pools, ponds, fountains and other water features, terracing, retaining walls, patios, and walkways.

In this photo, natural and man made structure work together.

winter garden - rose garden

The whole look here is structure.  A charming gazebo serves as the focal point.  It is flanked by large manicured shrubs and well-kept boxwood hedges.  In the foreground, we have beds of dormant rose canes adding their own stark beauty and structure.

And here the large repeating cypress trees give the garden a timeless dignity.  They also draw the eye down to the beautiful branching of a huge tree.

Winter garden with water feature


While symmetry is not a must for a beautiful winter garden, and is certainly not for every garden, it is something to consider.  I love the formal balance that symmetry gives this garden.

Visitors to the rose garden are greeted at the entrance with the beauty of symmetry.

Rose garden entrance

And it continues throughout the garden.

Rose garden - winter garden


Scale becomes important in winter when other eye-catching features of the garden have gone dormant and we are left looking at the garden’s bones.  And “bones” are more interesting to look at when they are of varying heights and widths.

The huge evergreens behind the gazebo and the shorter manicured conifers give this setting its impact.  They make the gazebo look small and protected, tucked away.  Without them, the gazebo would not be as interesting.  And without the gazebo, this setting would be simply a backdrop.

Rose garden gazebo

Seasonal Interest

How do we get seasonal interest in winter?  Well, it can be as simple as moss on a tree.

Rose garden - winter tree

And sometimes, seasonal interest is not about what you add for the season, but what you don’t take away.

Rose garden - sedum border

This flower bed is bordered with crimson colored sedum blossoms that bloomed in late summer and have now gone to seed. The seed heads are left for the birds to eat and for us to enjoy. Lavender and boxwood add to the beauty.

And sometimes, shrubs that are easily overlooked in summer become winter’s superstars.  Here a striking golden euonymus sits atop an art deco retaining wall.

Rose garden retaining wall

It’s interesting to visit nurseries in winter and see which plants and shrubs have real winter appeal.  I look for berries, colorful branches, interesting shapes or structures, or colorful leaves.

Just a few of my winter favorites (for my local hardizoness zone 8a) are:

  • Perennials:  Sedum ‘Autumn Joy;’ Corsican Hellebore.
  • Shrubs: Lemon Cypress (also called Wilma Cypress); Golden Euonymus; Red Twig Dogwood; Yellow Twig Dogwood; Purple Beautyberry; and, for grooming into short hedges, Boxwood.
  • Trees:  Coral Bark Japanese Maple, Aspen, Birch.

I hope you have enjoyed coming along to visit the Woodland Park Rose Garden.

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A Look Inside Cousin Lolli’s Studio

UPDATE:  April 26, 2017:  I am sad to announce to that the old building housing Cousin Lolli’s studio caught fire today.  No one was hurt, but Lolli and her studio mates are still regrouping from this loss – and will be for some time.  Her community has been very supportive, and there is a GoFundMe page for Lolli and her studio mates.

Chris and I feel so fortunate that we were able to visit the studio before this tragedy.  Lolli took us through the steps she takes to make her beautiful silkscreen creations.  I hope you enjoy our “ride along,” below.

Chris and I recently took a road trip down the Oregon coast and into California.  We pulled our vintage Airstream trailer along the winding highways that lead to Fort Bragg, where Cousin Lolli lives.

Lolli is a textile artist and, among other things, she silkscreens whimsical dishtowels.  I am a bit of a textile junkie and I have always loved her dishtowels.  They are beautiful and practical little works of art.

Chickens towel closeup - silkscreened dish towels
A closeup from Lolli’s “Chickens” towel

So I was thrilled when she offered not only to show me her fabric studio but to let me help her and observe the process of making the towels.

Fort Bragg Fabric Studio
This is where it all happens! The sign was created by Lolli’s studio mate, Jacob.

How Lolli Designs Her Towels

Lolli often works with other local artists when creating the designs for her towels.  Many of her towels feature images, for example heads of lettuce, with whimsical calligraphy winding around them. The calligraphy quotes literature, song lyrics, and old sayings.  Some of the quotes are thought-provoking, (one on the “Roses” towel reads, “Heaven help the roses when the bombs begin to fall – heaven help us all”) while other quotes are playful (as on the “Carrots” towel, “Cares melt when you kneel in the garden”).  Local artist Emily Whittlesey finds the quotes and does all the calligraphy.

The Fun Begins!

On this day, Lolli was making her “Lettuce” towels.

Silk Screened Dish Towels

With me to help her and Chris to observe, the whole process probably took her twice as long as usual.  But she was a good sport.

Lolli starts with a quality product.  The blank towels that she silkscreens are 100% cotton muslin, made in Bangladesh.  They are very soft and absorbent and become even more so with each washing.

I was trusted with ironing each towel before it was silkscreened.

Ironing towels
That’s me ironing the towels. Lolli is setting up her work table.

The Screens

A different screen is needed for each color used, so the lettuce towels would be a two-screen process.  The first screen was for the wording that would wind around the heads of lettuce, and the second screen was for the lettuce images.

screen lettuce lettering
This is the screen for the lettering

How silkscreens are made:  Though called silkscreens, the screens are actually either polyester or nylon. To create her screens, Lolli places her images on architects vellum, which is then placed onto a blank silkscreen using a light-sensitive emulsion.  The screen and vellum go through an exposure process, creating something similar to a photo negative. Black images on the vellum are washed away, exposing the mesh of the screen where paint can pass through during production.

The Process

I had no idea how much work went into the actual production of these towels.  Lolli uses a huge work table topped with industrial felt and covered with painter’s canvas coated in wax.

The Results

During production, Lolli sometimes blends two or more paint colors in her screens. Since those paints intermix differently every time she makes a screen pass, the first towel in a batch can be very different from the last towel.  The result is that each towel is truly one of a kind.

Chicken towels - silk screened dish towels
Notice the subtle color differences between these two “Chickens” towels.
Roses towel - silk screened dish towels
And the color variations on these two “Roses” towels

To get a vintage look, she might use images from old books that are out of copyright, like she did for this sweet “Carrots” towel – one of my favorites.

bunny closeup - silk screened dish towels

In designing her “Lettuce” towel, she used images from vintage seed packets.

The beauty is in the details in this classic “Roses” towel.

Roses towel closeup
Closeup of a border design on the “Roses” towel

Needless to stay, I went a bit crazy at the fabric studio and stocked up on Lolli’s dishtowels.  I think they are the perfect hostess or housewarming gift – really a great gift for any occasion.  After all, who doesn’t need a dishtowel?

Silk screened dish towels are a perfect hostess gift

I also enjoy using them as shop towels in my greenhouse.

Crows towel - silk screened dish towels
The “Crows” towel.


Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.

If you are ever in Fort Bragg, you will find Lolli’s dishtowels in several of the shops in the main part of town.  And now Lolli also has her towels on Etsy under Mendocino Textiles.  She is adding more towels to her Etsy store as they are available.

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Treasure Under the Sea: The Marine Building

Watching for Architecture

Sometimes in our busy lives, it’s easy to walk the streets caught up in our thoughts, or maybe our cell phones, and miss the architectural treasures standing silently in our midst.

So whenever I’m in a city – be it my hometown or any other city – I try to look up.  I am always on the lookout for the Victorian, the Edwardian, or the art deco.

While in Vancouver B.C. for a conference recently, this old art deco skyscraper stopped me in my tracks.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding

What a classic.  My standard procedure when I see a building like this is to check out the lobby.

And when the entrance looks like this, chances are pretty good that the inside is even better.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - entrance

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - entrance closeup

Turns out I had stumbled upon the Marine Building, once the tallest building in the British Empire.  It was completed in 1930 and restored in the 1980s.  And, as its name suggests, it boasts a marine décor theme.

Directly overhead at the building entrance is this whimsical terracotta scene.  If you look carefully, you can see all kinds of sea life.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - terracotta detail

The brass doors are surrounded by sea creatures.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - front door detail

And several panels, like this one, pay homage to the sea exploration that shaped the region.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - ship panel detail

A Watery Wonderland

In the lobby, the marriage of art deco style and nautical whimsy continues.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator lobby

Wall lighting comes from the prows of small terracotta ships, complete with nautical figureheads and waves.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - light fixture

The brass elevator doors sport what appear to be underwater gardens.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator door

Between the elevators, whales playfully chase ships.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator detail

While an elaborately framed panel tells office workers where their elevators are, as it has for 85 years.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator buttons

The floor features the signs of the zodiac.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - zodiac floor

And the phone booths are protected by a little ship at sea.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - phone booths

The ceiling is beautifully detailed.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - lobby ceiling

And the elevators are set off by sturdy alcoves.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator alcove

King Neptune is probably around here somewhere, but it would take hours to notice every detail in this lobby.  So let’s go back outside, because there is more to see there too.

A Man-Made Sea Cliff

Not by accident, the exterior of the Marine Building looks a bit like a shell-encrusted sea cliff.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding

Panels across the front of the building focus on modes of transportation.  To me, this zeppelin panel epitomizes the art deco ideal.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - zeppelin detail

Marine life frolics above the windows.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - exterior detail

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - seahorse

Past and present meet as the Marine Building is reflected in a modern glass skyscraper.

relectionArt deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding

The distorted reflection is only fitting for a building that was completed around the time of the stock market crash and the great depression.  A skittish public avoided renting space in the grand and expensive-looking building, and it was soon sold to the Irish Guinness family at a loss.

Not that the turtle cares.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - night bell

I was in Vancouver to attend Blogpodium, a Canadian conference for lifestyle bloggers.  As a visiting American blogger, I can say that I found Blogpodium relevant, helpful, and fun.  It was interesting to hear about the creative and unique things that other bloggers are doing in their own little corners of the blogosphere.  And my brain is still processing everything that I learned.

I even won a nice door prize, which I plan to write about soon.


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