on an island

I wrote an essay about the last week and then left, my laptop open on the couch, to get my daughter from school. I returned to my 20 pound cat purring on the keyboard with pages and pages of


It autosaved and previous drafts vanished. It’s pretty perfect, really. My time away had an enigmatic pulse.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I read hundreds and hundreds of birth stories. I was hungry for the information in others’ experiences. I wanted to feel prepared for anything, to know the possibility of everything from orgasm to death.

When my body was swollen with a Margot, my doula grabbed my 29 year-old hands and locked eyes with me, just a few inches from my face.

She said, “Your experience will be different than every other person’s experience. EVER.”

I had a unique recipe cooking inside of me when I boarded the first plane, as the sun set and Ruby clutched the hem of my shirt in despair. “I will miss you TOO much mama,” she sobbed over and over.

“We will miss each other the perfect amount.” I hugged her, believing her sentence more than mine.

I jumped into a stretch of firsts, the two biggest being my first time away from my children for more than a night and first time hosting a workshop.

Planes, layovers, cars and a little bit of sleep landed my travel companion and I in Washington. Twenty hours after we left Missoula, we arrived at the ferry terminal. I thought about the word terminal. It’s an end. But there’s a boat, a swim to somewhere else.

There, as we awaited our transport to an island I met friends, new and old. Through instagram handles, recounted email exchanges and hugs we settled into our space. Together, we found our sea legs and stepped on the boat to somewhere else.

My daughters suggested I find either a shark or an orca. Both would be best, but one would be alright. A photograph was requested, preferably with me in it next to the shark and/or orca. On that boat, I studied the navy expanse for any underwater movement, any breech. I only saw a gull hover at my temple, a loon dive for an alarming amount of time, four bald eagles atop island trees and a very different horizon.

I never stopped searching.

With my excitement, I also carried insecure thoughts of traveling away from the comfort of mountains and my family. I practiced positively shifting my internal language: I travel toward an ocean of new experience. I travel into potential. I was open and in solid company of others journeying from all corners of our country and Canada. They were in planes, cars and boats pointed to the same bay on the same tiny pacific island.

Being on an island can mean entrapment and it can mean self-discovery. These things are not mutually exclusive and I felt them both. I am changed by the people I met, deeply moved by their trust, honesty and storytelling. Together conduits to something greater, we wrote and shared and listened. We ran through emerald jungles, soaked in deep tubs of hot water, squished cold toes into sand and shoved full glasses of wine together in earnest toasts.

^^ I baked during part of my presentation on storytelling about the ritual of everyday experiences. Photo by Jenn Furber. ^^

^^ photo by Jesse Michener ^^

I never did see a whale or shark. Instead I brought my daughters the sincerest hugs I have ever given. We have been touching ever since: piggie backing, lap sitting, hand holding, shoulder riding, hugging, spooning. We missed each other too much, which was the perfect amount.

Margot and Ruby pushed into my torso as I told them about the seal I saw on my run one morning. I found a seaside bench at the end of a private trail. I sat, my body quiet and mind racing. I scanned the level blue for a fin and found him instead. Right in front of me, he silently pushed through the dark water. Just his head, the rest of his body vertical beneath the surface. We held gaze for a longer time than I’d imagined possible. And then he winked at me. Twice, just to be sure I understood.

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spring break: stay home and play

I imagined driving 15 hours to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to see one of my best friends. Or maybe back to our friend’s cabin. Or to Red Lodge. In the end, we stayed home, at the recommendation of my daughters. “If we can’t go somewhere where we get to see all the grandmas at one time then I want to just stay home and play. ” Margot decided for us.

I leave tomorrow for Write Doe Bay. I will be gone for six days, quite a bit longer than the few 24-hour periods I’ve spent apart from my children in the last six years. Like one of those end-of-garage-sale deals where hosts hand out paper bags that you get to stuff with treasures for a dollar, our week was affordable and full of goodness.

Our staycation was the ideal for two reasons: 1) I got a solid 11 days of playing with my kids, which infused my body with appreciation and love. 2) I got a solid 11 days of playing the the kids, which excited me for my first solo trip.

Day 1
Shopped for lumber to make a coffee table I designed and convinced my husband to make. Cleaned house. Read books. Rehung the swing to accommodate those growing limbs.

Day 2
At the creek. Saw the year’s first bees. Continue reading

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heirloom kitchen 01 > make soup

I really loved all the chat about dinner time in your homes. The sharing and passing on of foodie information is one of my very favorite items to catch and give.

My cousins and I each have a share of my grandma’s recipe cards, her handwriting unmistakeable in it’s light touch and airy spacing. I think she hummed while she wrote. I call my mom to hear her speak Aunt Sally’s Bread recipe each time I make it, even though I have it written down. A few of my most cherished objects include Andy’s grandma’s rolling pin and my grandmother’s silver. I store all our food in old jars, imagining the history with each vessel.

I spend a lot of time over food with my kids. They like to guess what is next. These days, they are usually right.

Should we add some baking soda mama? 

I think chopped carrots would be good in there! And some sage? 

It is time to knead? I’ll get the flour ready. 

Exactly, to the day, three years ago: Ruby, 1 and Margot, 3

This is how intuition is developed. It is not biological; it is inherited. Cooking confidence is gently handed from one person to another, a kitchen heirloom.

Developing intuition and an explorative approach in my kitchen comes from practice and curiosity. Every year I gain new tools, tips and tricks simply by reading, watching and asking questions. My kids too.

This begins a new series where I give you my secrets — where I share what has been shared with me. I hope to also share your secrets: to bring in guests who will tell how they learned to perfectly cut a grapefruit, cook beans over a campfire, clean cast iron or gracefully feed an army of after-school children. Continue reading

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plan / no plan (good recipes)

For the first time in my life, I planned a week of suppers and did all the shopping beforehand. I’ve heard of people doing this. My mom is the queen of planning; last month she sent out a group email to coordinate our meals at the family reunion. It’s in August. I’ve seen the planning charts on pinterest and even considered pinning them. I’ve looked at those together people with envy and admiration. I’ve thought it could be me and then reminded myself that I am the one who doesn’t even make a grocery list and, when I do scratch out a list on an old receipt, I leave it or change my mind. I make dinner magic from there’s-nothing-in-the house. I wing it, I don’t follow recipes.

Until now. Now I do both! Or, at least I have that one time.

A while back, I had dinner with a dear friend and I blinked in amazement as she rattled off her plans for meals over the week her family would be in town. I also had family coming to town and planned to hit the store and buy piles of food that would turn into dinner. I said I wished I had her organizational bones. When I said that out loud I realized I do. At one time, I headed up giant fundraising campaigns, coordinated hundreds of volunteers. And now I own my own business. I am no stranger to lists, to a spreadsheet. I choose to wing it in the kitchen because it is great fun to invent with my kids. They choose ingredients and we go for it. We dance around the kitchen and make impulsive decisions that (most) always work out. And there is a time to plan. Like when we have a full house of loved ones and I don’t want to have a post-ski-5pm-kitchen-scramble because I’d rather have everything at the ready so we can shake martinis while food peacefully simmers into dinner.

Plus! Yes, there’s a plus. With two grandmas and a grandpa who want to help and because the ‘recipe’ didn’t only exist in the dusty corners of my brain, I had tasks to hand out. Supper-making was collaborative and relaxing in a way I hadn’t experienced with house guests.

Our week of planned dinners was grand. And, here, I am sharing our menu with you.

Day 1:


I am just in love with Mark Bittman’s Basic Cheese Quiche, crust and all! (Yes: I use his over mine for this recipe). Because this quiche recipe isn’t posted by him online anywhere, it isn’t mine to share here. But it can be easily found in his cookbook. And his cookbook is wonderful.

Day 2:


I followed this recipe exactly and it was so good. Continue reading

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no retakes

Today is the first day of spring. I reminded my kids the instant they woke to the sun cresting over the forested mountain out their window. Ruby scaled the book cart to get a look. “No way, mama. I still see white stuff out there. Right in our garden.”

We talked about change and how it is usually pretty gradual. Not like a flash light flipping on, but like a campfire. It takes time to stack material, for one flame to ignite and then roll and rumble into the next flame.

Both of our kids are growing like bamboo. Ruby’s legs ache during the night; she says she can feel her bones moving. She moans while I rub essential oils down her shins in the early morning darkness. Her hunger is constant and she has days where she eats more than anyone in our home. Margot literally can’t get enough sleep; she slowly rolls into her days, decidedly undecided about waking up. She lost a front tooth and three more are wobbling their way out of the gums that were born smooth from my body.

Suffocated was the word Andy used last night when I attempted to finish a short story for the sixth time. I was one sentence in when Ruby shouted that she found a regurgitated mouse on our rug. Continue reading

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