|After spending a month in Billings visiting family (lots of time with Mom which is always precious)and friends (two I ran in to that I hadn't seen for 39 years...what a treat)and Mike completing his wiring job for my step-brother (which he really enjoyed)we headed for Seattle on October 8th after getting Mom out of the hospital twice and stabilized, we left the beautiful Montana fall weather and headed for rainy Seattle. Thank goodness it was an uneventful 850 mile trip made in 2 days (something we almost never do) but having driven that road dozens of times, there's not much left to stop and see. Looking forward to seeing the kids, grandkids and friends, we sure weren't excited to get into the 4 shades of gray that Seattle is so famous for! To our surprise and delight, the weather has been beautiful until Thursday when it rained most of the night and all day on Friday and Saturday. Today, once again it is sunny and beautiful and makes you fall in love with Seattle all over again. We've had fun visiting with the kids and grandkids and getting to see a couple of Halle's soccer games but disappointed that Kelsey's season doesn't start until January and Christian's BMX racing is only in the summer time. Since Nicole works mornings we have done lots of fun things together with her and I was lucky enough to get invited to one of her aerobics classes that she teaches for "Seniors." She gave us quite a workout but how invigorating! I really enjoyed it and she promised to make me a CD so I can continue it while traveling. We only got to visit with Stephanie and Mike a couple of evenings when we first arrived as they were off to Belize for 8 days...home today so will be anxious to see them and hear all about their trip. Kim's family has been busy and he has been off to eastern Washington for the last 2 weekends deer hunting so we've only gotten to see them once. He called last night with exiting news that they had gotten a 4 point buck. As you can imagine they were pretty thrilled. Sure am hoping to get to have a taste while we're here. Nicole and I had a real treat the other day when we went to downtown Seattle to take a tour of the Theo Chocolate Factory. They have only been in business for 5 years and already making a profit. They purchase the cocoa beans from around the world that are organic and fair trade certified direct from the growers and make all their own chocolate, unlike the big names like See's, Nestle, etc., who buy the chocolate already made and melt it to become their chocolate bars. Cocoa beans grow in a very limited area in the world, approximately 20 degrees to the north and south of the Equator. Nearly 70% of the world crop is grown in West Africa. Because the pods are so huge (about the size of a football) they grow on the trunk of the tree rather than the limbs. They are a variety of colors as they mature from red, green and purple and when ripe turn yellow or orange. They are then hand picked where they are split open and the beans and pulp removed and spread out to ferment. They reminded us of slimy worms growing inside a shell. Once they have fermented they are dried and shipped. Theo roasts then extracts the cocoa butter and cocoa solids so they can then start making the yummy chocolate. Their chocolate only contains 4 ingredients...cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar and ground vanilla beans. From that basic bar they then add pure flavors to make some of the various tasting bars. Their highest percentage bar is 91% (too bitter for me) the next is 74% but my favorite was the 70%. The U.S. standard for labeling something dark chocolate rather than milk is only 30% cocoa but Theo makes nothing under 45% even for their milk chocolate. Walking through the store after the tour, they have a huge variety of bars of which you can sample as much or as little as you want. Needless to say Nicole and I sampled everything and had a chocolate high by the time we left! But remembering that the doctors say that 1-1 1/2 oz. of dark chocolate is good for you EVERY day, we sure didn't feel guilty...but sooooooooo healthy! A very informative day and one I would recommend to anyone in or visiting the Seattle area. We're not quite sure how much longer we'll be in Seattle but hope to head south to southern California before too long with lots of stops along the way. Mike really wants to see the giant sequoia's if the weather will allow and of course a visit with my uncle and cousins in the Fresno area is something we don't want to miss. Hope to see some more of our friends while here in the area and have several appointments yet so who knows when we'll get out of here. That's the beauty of our lives.