Do You Remember Your First Birthday?

I started this blog on October 24, 2013.  Almost exactly one year ago.  I have now posted over 100 stories which in some ways surprises even me.  I didn’t know I had so much that I wanted to say.

I  did learn quickly however that blogs are not one size fits all and I began two other blogs; The Expat Cafe and Lean, Mean and Vegan, mostly because I felt that I had different audiences I wanted to speak too and I wanted an avenue to do just that.

I only post two blog entries a week on each blog and while that might seem like a lot to some of you I follow blogs that post not only once a day but several times in that day.  Wow!  Where do they find the time to be creative or in staying motivated?

While I do have a list of story ideas on my calendar that take me well into 2015 on this blog, and I’m adding new story ideas all the time, I do not contemplate ending this blog anytime soon.

I will be blowing out a candle this week to celebrate my first birthday.  Now that I’ve learned to do the blog walk, let’s see how far I can run…

Happy Birthday to me.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Happy Birthday to me. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Florence Lince



My How You’ve…Changed

Before Mike and I lived in any new city, on any continent, we researched the area as best we could on the internet. We tried to find other expats who lived in the area so that we could ask them pointed questions about life in that city. We located grocery stores, bakeries, fresh markets, the local library, banks, and transit centers on a city map. If possible we also tried to locate information on crime statistics in a certain city.

Because we were heading back to Olympia, Washington, and we had only been away for seven years, we figured we knew enough about the area. Thus, we did no prior research. Before arriving we had planned to find something to rent in or near the downtown Olympia core.

Somehow, somewhere and without many people noticing, downtown Oly became a not-so-nice place to live. They even managed to turn my much-loved and often-visited Olympia Farmers Market into a tourist hot spot where the prices are now so outrageous that it is no longer a must-visit experience for many locals as it once was.

A walk through Sylvester Park in central downtown on a beautiful warm day had us walking through a maze of people, young and old, strewn all over the lawn, smoking and drinking. Many of the cities homeless now congregate on the lawns and under the trees. It was no longer a nice place to sit and enjoy a good conversation or a cup of coffee. When a city loses a place for families to play with their children, they have a problem.

Also, while walking around the city center Mike and I were shocked over the increased number of tattoo parlors we found spread throughout the city. When a city has more tattoo parlors than bookstores, they have a problem.

To better understand what happened here, I walked into several downtown businesses and chatted with the owners. I learned that over 80% of the downtown housing was now section 8 low income housing. Eighty percent is a major saturation. No one had been paying any attention to the housing infrastructure during the past seven years, and low income housing became the standard. When people run out of Section 8 assistance, they become homeless. Homeless people tend to remain where they are familiar and comfortable, and that equated to the downtown park.

We also noticed that there were no grocery stores to buy everyday staples in the city center. We wondered, where are people supposed to shop? We were told that they had to head out of the area to nearby Lacey or Tumwater to buy groceries or they had to pay the incredibly high end prices at the only grocery store in the area which is nearby but not located central to downtown.

Many of the businesses we had frequented and shopped in were no longer around. Many of the buildings are vacant and waiting for someone to come along and fill them. We learned that much of the turnaround was due to the type of people who fill the streets at night in Olympia because of the homeless situation and people no longer felt safe walking the streets at night. If people with money no longer want to dine at, shop in or even walk through your city center, how can one expect the restaurants and the businesses to thrive?

Is it too late for there to be a turnaround? Can something be done to lesson the number of section 8 housing options and to equal out the type of people they want to draw to downtown?   In a special three part report in The Olympian entitled Taking Back Downtown Olympia, several people are reportedly trying to do just that. Will they succeed? I hope so. Olympia is after all the state capitol of Washington, and it should be a bustling, vibrant, fun and safe place to live. I hope they can make it happen.

Until they do we will be living further north in Bellingham, Washington, where the statistics and our research indicate Bellingham is one of the best cities in not only Washington to live in but also in the United States. We therefore have learned our lesson. Just because we are American and just because we think we know our own country better does not mean we shouldn’t be doing our research on a city or a location with as much depth and clarity as when we researched for a safe place to live on four other continents. The mindset really does need to be; once an expat, always an expat.

Florence Lince


An Expat Still Has The Right to Vote

I hope my blog story is not a surprise to the thousands of American’s living outside of the United States. Unless you have given up American citizenship you are still entitled to vote in every mid-term and Presidential election, even if you no longer live here full-time.

Mike and I haven’t been in the United States for the past three elections – be they mid-term or Presidential. That however has never stopped us from casting our vote. We were in the country of Panama in 2012 when we cast our vote in the Presidential election.

Many of the American embassies will forward your election ballet to the United States – free of charge. Each country has their own procedure for doing this and their own timeline but it is an option for expats. Allow at least three weeks lead time however for them to get your ballet on American soil before the deadline.

The last day to register to vote in these mid-term elections was October 6, 2014. Knowing this, one of the first things Mike and I did when we arrived back here in the US in July was to update our voter registration information so that we could vote in the mid-term elections.

Here are some helpful links in case you are an expat but you have never registered to vote:

Vote from

Democrats Abroad

Republicans Abroad

According to the Association of American Residents Overseas,

Many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%.  All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline which differs by state.

The right for US citizens who reside overseas to vote was not part of the election standards until 1986. That year the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) was put into law.

Seeing that someone went to all the trouble of giving me a law to use I think it only fair that I do so as much as possible.  I hope you will join me.

Florence Lince

Will All The Real Bloggers Please Stand Up

Recently I interviewed for a writing job. What I heard them say during the interview process made me do a double think. Their stance was that bloggers, and blogs in general, were considered worthless poppycock because of the lack of journalist integrity shown by blog writers. Blogs, as far as they were concerned, were badly written, the bloggers did not have credible sources and no blogger did any research on their topic. They wrote just what they thought off the top of their heads. In essence, every blog on the internet was baseless as far as they were concerned.

Since I have three blogs I listened to all this hyperbole with my eyes wide open and my mouth firmly closed shut. If you know me at all this was a momentous occurrence.

Who on earth were they trying to sell this ridiculous notion too I wondered?

According to the latest statistical data, there are 172 million blogs on Tumblr and 75.8 million blogs on WordPress.  That’s a whole lot of nothing going on.

Now, I am aware that not every blog online is active. I have seen many of them in my searches on various topics and sadly I know the blog has been deserted. There are, however, plenty of blogs online to read on a variety of subject matters; travel, food and civil rights are among my top three.

Most people who are blogging that I have read are knowledgeable on their chosen topic, passionate about what they are doing and able and ready to write a blog to help others. I guess I don’t read the blogs they were referring too because none of the blogs I read fit the stereotype of the blogger that they opinioned.

Maybe I am just fussier than most. I don’t read every blog out there of course and over time some blogs are no longer relevant to me and I look for something else to read. I also have to be moved greatly to even post a response on a blog because some blogs are interesting but do not require my feedback. It also depends on the mood I’m in when I read them.

I know this company just wanted to make their job seem more than it was, but to disparage an entire enterprise with nonsense and downright lies made me wonder. If their objective of being a leader in the communication industry was so tenuous that they had to disparage bloggers in general, did I even want to work with them?

So, to all the blog writers and bloggers I read and follow, keep up the good work. Get your references annotated, make your links bold and bright and keep up the good fight. I’ll be reading.

Florence Lince



Nordic Heritage Day

Yesterday Mike and I attended the very first Nordic Heritage Day here in Olympia, WA. Mike and I love attending ethnic fairs and festivals and earlier in the week I had connected with the President of the local Sons of Norway chapter to learn more about this festival.

As is usually the case we met some awfully nice people who are very proud of their heritage and simply wish to share it with others. Mike and I are only too glad to learn more about other cultures and their way of life while we are here in the US and deciding on what countries to explore next.

Going to festivals and fairs is therefore research for when we grab our passports and head off again to live among and with the locals.

I therefore created the video, using original Norwegian music, to highlight some of the sights we saw yesterday at the very first Nordic Heritage Day.

Florence Lince

Eat Your Veggie’s

As many of you know Mike and I visit Farmer’s Markets in every city that we have lived in and traveled too. Because the ‘famous’ farmer’s market here in Olympia has become a tourist trap and the prices are through the roof I have been hunting for an alternative farmers market. We are after all eating vegan which means we eat an awful lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.

My research led me to the Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market which we visited this past Wednesday.  The market was started in 2006 when the City of Tumwater met with a group of local farmers and farmers market advocates.  Their three main goals were to:

  • Create an open-air location for healthful shopping, workplace events and information-sharing for state, city and library employees.
  • Increase consumer access to fresh produce by being able to buy directly from local farmers.

And lastly to

  • Provide a public space for state employees and others to gather.

One of the unique features of this farmers market is the access to a community booth where local groups can display information of importance to the community as a whole, or to promote an event. This past Wednesday, September 3 Dahlia growers and enthusiasts were asked to enter their blooms into a contest to choose the best Dahlia. There was no cost to enter and the grand prize came from Barn Nursery.

Any public group, state or municipal agency or nonprofit organization may sponsor the community booth for a market day. The cost is $15. The booth may be used for outreach on topics of public interest or for public education on topics of concern to the community. The booth is not to be used for soliciting, political, or religious activities.

In addition to being a place where local farmers can sell their produce directly to the public they have hot food vendors, fresh cut flowers, and live entertainment. These are some of the upcoming special events being held at the market;

September 24 – Cider Day

October 8 – Harvest Festival

October 22 – Pumpkin Paloosa

Three of the market regulars also participate in the Community Supported Agriculture program. Often times called the CSA program consumers pay in advance for a variety of in-season produce which they pick up on a weekly or monthly basis. Costs vary according to the farm and what they grow. You can purchase a full or a half share. (To learn more about CSA programs click here. You can also search to see if this program is offered in your community.)

The three vendors whom you can arrange CSA’s with in Tumwater are;

8 Arms Community Bakery (baked goods) This could be dangerous!

Kirsop Farm (produce)

Stoney Plains Organic (produce)

The market has an active Facebook page.  If you live in the area Like it to get updated vendor information on the weeks market activities.

The Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market will conclude its 2014 offerings at the end of October. The market is located at the corner of Capitol Blvd. and Israel Road and is open every Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The market is also served by local transit which runs every 15 minutes during the day. They have a picnic area so that you can enjoy the live music and a hot lunch while shopping for your vegetables. Mike and I tried Lupe’s Tamales and you will learn more about Lupe in an upcoming post.

Because we did not get to this market sooner we missed out on the Kettle Corn vendor and some of the other fruit growers because their seasons are over. Perhaps next year…


Florence Lince

The City of Murals

Having traveled to four continents and over 28 countries thus far I have to say I don’t think I have ever lived in a city with more murals than can be found here in Olympia, Washington.

A mural is defined as any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. It is most common in a mural for the architectural elements of the given space to be harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Olympia is home to the world’s largest solidarity mural. This 4000 square foot mural begins with a giant olive tree with branches and leaves. These leaves are called talking leaves with each one representing an organization from around the world which represents solidarity, activism or community service. The mural was erected in honor of Rachel Corrie who was born here in Olympia but killed in Gaza. The artists who participated in creating this mural were local, national and international artists and activists.

This mural is 4000 square feet.  It is the largest solidarity mural in the world.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is 4000 square feet. It is the largest solidarity mural in the world. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was created in memory of Rachel Corre who was born in Olympia but died in Gaza.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was created in memory of Rachel Corrie who was born in Olympia but died in Gaza. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince








This website, for the Olympia Rafah Solidarity Mural Project, has a wonderful interactive aspect which tells you which organization painted and supported the mural ‘leaves’.  It will also allow you to see the leaves close-up.  Rachel Corrie was a young activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while defending the home of a Palestinian family in Gaza. The mural is located on the corner of State Street and Capital Way.

Not all murals are political in nature.  This one is for a local Italian restaurant - called, you guessed it, Trinacria.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Not all murals are political in nature. This one is for a local Italian restaurant – called, you guessed it, Trinacria. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Trinacria is a Sicilian restaurant located on Capital Way.  It is open only for dinner and doors open at 5:00pm. I can personally attest to the fact that the cannoli’s are made fresh when ordered and the owner, who is from Sicily, uses good rigotta cheese.

This mural is located near a local Thai restaurant.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is located near a local Thai restaurant. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In almost every alley in between buildings you can find a mural.  They are literally everywhere in this city.  You just need to keep your eyes peeled.  This one is located near a local Thai restaurant.


Some murals are two murals in one. This building is so large they put first one mural here and then used the second half of the building for the other. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the other famous murals in Olympia.  This one is found on the side of The Old School Pizzeria.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the other famous murals in Olympia. This one is found on the side of The Old School Pizzeria. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince









The mural depicting all of the Marvel Comic Book Hero’s was copied from a 300 piece puzzle entitled the Marvel Super Heroes Fantasy Jigsaw Puzzle.  Can you name all the super hero’s?

Some art is frustration art.  It can be beautiful however.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some art is frustration art. It can be beautiful however. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is located on the same stone wall as the mural for Trinacria.

Participating in the painting of murals is a big deal here in Olympia.  This past August 24th was the 4th Annual Community Mural Painting Project.  Residents and painting enthusiasts meet and help to paint a new mural every year.  This year the mural was located at the Olympia Little Theater.  I will have to make it over to the site to take photos of the finished project and I’ll share them in an upcoming post.

I could not find a website to tell me how many murals there are in Olympia.  As I see and find more I will record them in snapshots and then share them from time to time.

Florence Lince