Getting to Know Seattle: Spring-Like

Seattle hit 77 degrees on Tuesday, which certainly won’t last but is a wonderful taste of consistently warmer weather to come. I clicked off the heat and opened all the windows, upstairs and down, and let the breezes sweep away the stale air of a house that’s been closed up all winter long.

Here in Seattle we have a clear harbinger that the season has changed: cruise ships to Alaska start lining up at the piers around May 15th. Amy’s Aunt Joyce and Uncle Ray live in Iowa, and they have a similar kind of marker: barges start transiting the Mississippi River.

Does the place where you live have any kind of tangible marker that a new season has arrived? If so, share it with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting to Know Seattle: Back Deck

This pic was taken mid-day on Sunday, when the temps were mid-50’s, set to reach 60 later in the day. The angle of the sun isn’t yet right to keep the back deck in full sun at this time of day, but you can see that setting the furniture in place and getting ready to sit out isn’t really premature. ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting to Know Seattle: Old and New

I had to be downtown early, so took the chance to visit my favorite Crumpet Shop. This pic caught my eye as a demonstration of Seattle old and new, living side by side. Old is the dirty old man peep show, and new are the high rise office and condo buildings that form the backdrop.ย  Gradually, the old is giving way to new construction; the land is too valuable for low rise buildings. But somehow the dirty picture show lingers on. I wonder if the summer tourists that flock to Pike Place Market even see that the theater is there. Hardly fits Seattle’s urban hip image.

Best Towns and Small Cities: Des Moines, Iowa

This post is a shout-out for my Iowa relatives, and for Amy’s siblings and their Aunt Joyce and Uncle Ray, all of whom are Iowans.


The London Guardian has a series called “Best Towns and Small Cities in the United States”. I find it fascinating to see what places the Brits think excel as places for young and old to call home. Included in the series so far are Eugene, Chapel Hill, Ithaca, Portland, Ventura, Missoula. Yesterday’s story was about Des Moines Iowa.

My father’s family is from the southeast corner of the state, just along the Missouri border. My Aunt Pauline lived just over the state line, in Downing, Missouri. We don’t have any immediate relatives in Des Moines as far as I know. although perhaps a few distant cousins.

But according to the Guardian, Des Moines — once a sleepy bastion of banking and insurance back office operations, home of sports bars and ranch dressing and neighborhood joints serving American mass produced beer– has come alive. This small-ish midwestern city, smack in the center of the state, now has craft beers, farm-to-table restaurants, trendy indoor music venues year round and large outdoor festivals in summer, cool but affordable neighborhoods, a coffee shop culture, and an overall low cost of living. Young people are staying, a change from the past.

I had a taste of Des Moines as a remade city a few years ago, when I was staying in a downtown hotel for a family event. Amy and her brother were running a race, and we came to cheer them on. Not wanting hotel restaurant food, I walked a few blocks to a seafood place that touted its selection of fresh oysters.

Did I say that Des Moines is in the center of the state, far from anyplace fresh oysters might originate? The oyster expert behind the seafood bar and I struck up a conversation. She’d trained with one of the major chefs and graduated from a good culinary program, and Des Moines was where she was offered a job. Initially skeptical, she accepted, and was thriving.

They oysters were fresh and delicious and excellently prepared and served.

Clearly a city the size of Des Moines doesn’t have the array of options that a city like Seattle does. The trade-off, besides our more temperate weather, is cost of living. And truth to tell, now that I’ve lived here in Seattle awhile, I’ve narrowed down to my favorite places and cultural activities. There’s a ton here to do, much of it low cost — library lecture series, REI outdoor adventure classes — and no one can take in more than a taste.

I note that a number of the small cities on the Guardian list are in cold places, which would preclude my interest. But I get the appeal. There’s a lot to be had in a place like Des Moines and a mid-range salary goes a long way if you don’t mind bundling up for the cold.