No books for me

Tonight I wandered aimlessly through Barnes and Noble, looking at titles, thumbing through pages from favorite authors. The covers were enticing, the smell of books and the order of shelves and aisles calming and soothing. I love the quiet and sanctity of bookstores.

I wandered through the store and finally left with nothing.


I’ve been an avid reader as far back as I can remember. I would rather read than watch anything. I read for pleasure, information, inspiration, and to relieve boredom. I’ll read the cereal box at breakfast rather than stare into space.

Did I mention I’m a reader?

But I find a curious thing happening to me lately.

I still love to read, and there’s always more great material to absorb. Of course, with Amazon at my fingertips, I’ll never be at the end of my author wish list, and no one ever gets to the end of books.

There are always more books to read.

But somehow…somehow…right now, I need to write my words before I read someone else’s.

That doesn’t apply to everything. I read blog posts and other short pieces. I read news articles and recipes. I read Facebook posts and my Twitter feed.

But what I’m not reading, at the moment, are books. I can’t settle with anything. It’s a strange place to find myself. Most of my life, books have been a comfort, or a guide, or both.

But now I find myself wanting to write my book, use my voice. I’ve dipped a toe in these waters before with a couple of short works. I fulfilled a little personal goal, to be an author, even if it was through self-publishing. That isn’t what this experience is about. There’s a gulf between the first two forays into writing books and this one.

This one is the fulfillment, not of personal ambition, but of a personal quest. I’ve struggled with the question of purpose all my adult life, and I’ve finally solved the mystery, to my satisfaction.

I’m writing my story, the story of how I answered the question of purpose for myself, and sharing how others can do it too.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fast.

But it was worth the wait.

And isn’t that the best feeling? When you know…you know…you’ve solved your puzzle, your riddle, finally figured “it” out.

The book is coming along nicely, words pouring out. I may be writing for myself more than anyone else. I don’t know, can’t know, until it’s done and out there, and I see the response.

For now, it’s enough that I want to do this, and that I have the tools.

The book will be on Kindle, hopefully before the end of the year, my Christmas present to myself, to meet my timeline.

And I know I’ll be ready to read again…I’ve already got a few books waiting!

How to get a new laptop with the push of a button

Sounds too good to be true, right?

I promise that’s all it took!

Well…it only took a simple keystroke to shut down my MacBook Pro last week when I saw the spinning wheel of color, always a bad sign that something’s stalled. I gave it a few minutes, but eventually decided I would just shut down and restart. Much simpler than waiting out whatever was going on with the inner workings of my Mac.

It wasn’t meant to be a momentous choice. But you know how these things happen: you never see disaster coming.

A few minutes later, I realized my laptop wasn’t restarting like it always does. My familiar screens weren’t coming up, and I got on the phone with Apple support in short order. I was blessing myself for buying the service plan, and confidently, even smugly waited for all to be restored.

The friendly Apple guy was confident too, at first. We tried this key and that key, shutting down, simultaneously holding down various combinations of alphabet keys. (I always think I’ll remember what the tech guys have me do so I can fix my problems myself, but I never do.)

Everything brought me back to the same thing: a message saying FileVault had been activated and I needed the encryption key to unlock the computer.

That would have been simple, except that I didn’t have the key, or password, or whatever I needed. I went through two technicians trying to find a work around.

But there was no healing my situation.

Yes. I had very cleverly protected my files from everyone, including myself.

It seems in the last operating system download, I authorized FileVault. I’m sure I was breezing along and agreed to whatever the prompts suggested, but I don’t remember setting up any secret password. And no password I use on a regular basis for the plethora of sites that I’m on worked to open FileVault.

Nothing worked.

Soon the cheerful tech was giving me my options…I could go to an Apple store and get assistance with reinstalling the operating system, or I could do it myself. It would just require this one small step first. I would have to erase my current operating system, and with it, all my saved files.

The conversation went something like this….

Me, getting a little excited: “I’m in Southeast Alaska with no Apple store in sight, or in my near future, certainly not before I need this laptop to work.”

Tech: “Well you’ll be ok, you can get your files from your back up.”

Me: “I haven’t backed up in about a year.”

Tech: “Oh my…well back ups certainly save us. From this point on you’ll have a back up.”

I could hear his opinion through the phone. I think it was something like: “you poor sad idiot!”

I had a few files saved on iCloud, and anything that I access from web-based programs is fine. I could import my photos from my phone or other digital sources.

But I lost a lot of documents and downloads, most of which I can’t replace. I download PDFs all the time…there’s no way I could backtrack and find all I had saved.

Worse, I’m not entirely sure what all I lost. I know there were lots of fonts and graphics, recipes, words of wisdom, quotes…so much I’d accumulated over the last few years.

You know all those things that you run across by happy accident and you save?!

Yeah, that’s the stuff I lost.

All my work files are gone. Some things I had shared via email I can get back. But like the other things I’m missing, I really only know categorically what’s gone, I can’t recall item by item what’s lost.

At least I still have the three books I’ve written. I’d saved through the Cloud, though I didn’t save all my writing, not by a long shot.

The new install gave me back lots of storage space, and a chance to reinvent my digital world.

I’m slowly re-downloading programs, and finding bits and pieces I can restore from a variety of sources. It’s a painful process.

But the up side is I cleaned out a lot of old stuff, too, and I’d needed to do that for a while. I just didn’t expect to do it in a rush with the click of a button.

Live and learn. I like to think I’m savvy, that I keep up with all my passwords and I save appropriately. This taught me I’m not as careful as I like to think, and even though my laptop didn’t crash, and I didn’t lose it physically, being locked out by FileVault was just as effective at wiping me out.

So, I have a clean, new, almost empty computer. And I did not enable FileVault on this install. It turns out I’m a lot less concerned that my files will be breached, more worried about getting locked out again.

I’m in familiar territory though, being a cautionary tale (seems to be one of my callings in life) to remind fellow computer users: Back up! Back up! Back up! Oh, and unless you have state secrets to guard, save yourself. Don’t activate FileVault.

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!



It was a weekend with the Littles, and two weeks out from Halloween, it was a weekend to visit the pumpkin patch and pick the perfect ones to carve for the big event.

Riley and Jack take me to my childhood, and to memories of my kids’ childhoods. What a joy, this third time around to experience the magic and the firsts.

And even though this Halloween isn’t a true first for either of them, they’re young enough that each year is still fresh, a new experience of abilities, awareness, and memory.

They’re at that tender age when their traditions are forming. They’re beginning to know what they do “every” year. Riley, especially, is reaching the age to anticipate, to forecast, to know.

She knows Halloween is coming, that Christmas is around the corner, and that her next birthday is on the horizon.

Jack parrots Riley, so even though he doesn’t have a lot of understanding about dates and events yet, he pipes up with the right words. He copies what she says, and how she says it, right down to the tone of voice and the emphasis and excitement.

It’s delicious to be around them, to hear the baby wisdom. To hear Riley say yesterday that she would “just be the bigger person!” Of course she wasn’t…she was immediately the smaller person, in response to something Jack had done. But she’s working on it. She’s got the words, and she knows when to use them. She just has to perfect her follow through. I recognize pieces of Riley through my first-born self and my first-born daughter, and now another of us. Riley mothers, and orders, and knows. She knows what she wants. And she understands how life works, even at five.

And Jack! That boy, he’s stolen my heart with his laugh, his energy, his very joy of living. He’s almost never still, until suddenly he is, passed out in a heap of exhaustion.

We wait for that moment, every night. He’s precious, but he’s a busy one. And at his bedtime, I think you can hear an audible “aaahhh.” It’s just a wee victory, Jack quiet and down for the night.

His language is growing, every day. But he still has some of the charming baby phrasing I find so irresistible. Two months short of three, he sometimes sounds like a little boy version of Riley, who sometimes sounds like a little girl version of a teenager.

Such is the power of culture. She picks up the tone and phrases, and he learns from her.

But he’s still a Little, too. Often throughout the day he comes to announce, “I hungry!” Like the book he loves about the hungry caterpillar, he eats and eats and eats. And he runs. He’s a runner, and a jumper.

As always, any time they’re in my keeping, the goal is to pass them back safely. Bones intact, no stitches. :)

Tonight we’re done, getting ready for bed, the Littles are home with parents. But we’ll see them in a couple of weeks, gear up for another few days of being in their world, their routines, remember the rhythm and the magic.

We’ll carve the pumpkins and buy candy to hand out at the door, feel the building excitement of Halloween for little kids…the non-scary, candy collecting, neighborhood walking event.

It’s a charm-filled time in their little lives, and I’m so thankful to share it.

Lost and found: a year of discovery and recovery

It’s been a year this week since we sold the house in Ketchikan and vaulted into a nomadic life. For the past year I’ve lived out of two Eddie Bauer roller bag suitcases, supplemented with seasonal changes of wardrobe from my storage unit, and a few items stashed in my daughter’s spare room closet.

I haul a few favorite kitchen knives with me, good sheets (I’m picky about knives and sheets) and enough clothes to get through a couple of weeks.

I’m also creating a traveling “junk drawer” in one of the zipper pockets of my larger suitcase. Even when you’re mobile, you need a place to put extra buttons or receipts or the odd items that you don’t want to throw away but don’t need in your purse.

I tell people we’re homeless, but that’s just in fun. We’re really transitory, working and staying in temporary duty apartments during work stays. Between commitments we spend a few days with family or friends, or traveling. So far I don’t think we’ve out-stayed our welcome anywhere (but maybe I should ask my son-in-law to be sure about that :) ).

In the past year we’ve attended a 10 day meditation retreat and a week-long event that focused on resolving issues from the past. I’ve launched two Kindle books and have another one ready to list. I’ve reduced my household possessions to a one-car garage-size storage unit. I’m working with a web design firm to create a new site. We’ve traveled to the Caribbean and cross-country from Texas to Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Colorado, California, Oregon, and of course, Washington (home of the Littles).

It’s been quite a year.

I didn’t see it coming when it began.

It’s been like the classic line from Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times.

Thanks to many forces at work in my life, thank God it’s ending in the right way, with the best of times.

And if we’re not settled yet, after a year of working and roaming, I’m content enough, without an immediate need for a nest under my wings.

The past weeks, working in SE Alaska, life has come full circle, come back to serenity, and to joy.

I’ve learned, once again, that the important things in life aren’t things. That happiness is elusive…when you look for it, it’s often difficult to find. But when you stop chasing it, it appears, seemingly out of nowhere.

Who would guess that I could be happy without my home, my nest all neat and feathered? Or that not knowing the future and how it will look wouldn’t rattle me?

I’ve learned to always hope. Always hope.

You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.

I’ve learned that whatever is going on in life, there are always forces at work, shaping events and others’ choices in ways that will impact, and in ways that I can’t imagine, can’t see. Life is never all in our control, so I shouldn’t be surprised when there are twists and turns I don’t foresee.

Often I’m still caught off guard, though, even though I think I’ve absorbed this lesson well. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes against me.

I’ve learned that gratitude, and doing the right thing as far as I’m able, cures most of life’s angst.

I’ve learned, again, that life doesn’t have to be perfect, or anything near that mark, to be wonderful.

One of these days, we’ll be re-settled, and life will look more “normal.” Or so I assume.

But in the meantime, it’s enough that I catch myself singing, and smiling, and feeling a spring in my step. After a year of frequent wandering in the wilderness, these are welcome signs of renewal.

Spring in October? Well, in SE Alaska that seems unlikely. But spring in my heart?

Yes. Just yes!

Stories I tell myself

Funny how pride can trip you up. Funny how it can blind you to reality, especially when part of what you’re proud of is that you always live in reality.

Well, does anyone? I like to think I do, and sometimes that’s true, at least as clearly as I perceive reality.

But not always.

Lately I’ve been looking at the ways I interpret my life, and choices, and I’ve realized: I haven’t always lived in reality. Oh, it looked that way. But it wasn’t true.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

From another life, years and years ago, when I was a 20-something and doing all I could to keep my head above water, holding life together with two little ones and weathering the challenges of life with a medical student husband, and then a resident husband, living 1200 miles from family, I told myself how strong I was, how mature I was. I was doing my part. I was brave.


The reality was, I was foolish.

Why did I think I had to do what I did, largely without help, and trying to make it look easy? Who told me that was a mature choice?

No one told me. I just assumed that’s what adults did.

It would have been more brave to have admitted I needed help, I was in over my head. But I was so busy being strong, being mature, I didn’t let my guard down long enough to admit those needs to myself, much less to anyone else. I was so busy being mommy, being adult, I let go of being Sheila, and I certainly let go of being wife.

The reality is, I made it through those years. We made it. We survived. We even appeared to thrive.

But there was a toll, some of which I feel to this day. The coping skills I learned during that time of life weren’t always healthy. I learned to do a lot on my own, to shut out a lot. It’s not behavior that encourages partnership, and our partnership has suffered through the years because of habits formed when we were very young.

Oh, we moved on. We moved beyond. We didn’t stay totally stuck in that time. But we brought along some of the damage, some of the baggage, without really recognizing it.

So now, I see. I reflect, I think back to those babies, those 20-somethings raising babies, and keeping up with the challenges, because we didn’t know it was ok to show weakness, to ask for help. We thought it was brave to do it on our own.

Is it brave to stand without help? Maybe. Sometimes. It depends on how healthy you are, and what it takes out of you to do it. Some of the damage we created then we couldn’t see at the time. We were too busy being strong to recognize how weak we really were.

Some of these patterns I’ve seen, so many years later, and I look back and wish I could do over. I don’t exactly know how I would do it differently. But some things would change.

We ran a marathon that almost killed a marriage, left us shells of people who only knew how to keep going, keep being brave and strong and adult.

I realize, I told myself a story about what life would look like, about what adulthood meant, about what marriage meant. I didn’t know I was making it up, out of a lot of assumptions and vague beliefs. I thought I was living in reality.

One of the ironies of life is that in a time I thought I saw so clearly, I was blind. In a time I thought I had a lot on the ball, I was just juggling balls, not seeing how close I was to dropping many things.

In hindsight, and with clarity, I see so much that was hidden from me then.

I wonder what I’m missing now?

Life is a process, and each choice brings us to the next choice. I’m more thoughtful now about the stories I tell myself, the certainty I feel when I assess. I’ve learned that just because I can handle a situation on my own, that isn’t always the best decision. Sometimes the best choice is to invite others to join, to help, to help me see clearly. To help me live in reality.

Stories are fun, sometimes funny. They should teach us too, help us know the traps to avoid and the joys to embrace.

I don’t know what my story will do for others. Will it be a cautionary tale? Or a story of life reinvented, mistakes recovered, joy restored?

I hope it will be all those things. Let me caution you, don’t be like me. Don’t tell yourself you’re brave, when you’re only short-sighted. Don’t do without help when you really need it.

I’ve been given a great gift. I can’t turn back the clock, but the lessons of those days, and others, are living with me now, helping me see and right things that need to be righted.

I’m telling myself a new story these days. It is one of partnership, one of strength. But not strength from doing everything myself. It is strength from shared vision, shared goals, shared life.

Aaahhh…I think I’m finally living in reality.

Earth in the soul

I’m drinking my coffee, looking out at morning sun over vineyard rows, the symmetry and orderliness calling to my soul.

What is there about farming that sings to me? I don’t have any real ambition to work the land, to tend crops or fret about the impact of weather on harvest. But there is something there.

I think it’s the heritage of my grandparents, farmers all, at one point or other in their lives: tied to the soil, to the rhythm of seasons and the cycle of labor, prepare, plant, nurture, harvest, rest.

My grandmothers were gardeners. They were primarily gardeners of vegetables, real food. One of them also raised chickens, and the other was an avid flower gardener, in addition to the plants she grew for food.

They worked hard. As a kid growing up, I had the luxury of helping on the fringe, shelling peas or some other child-friendly task. I wasn’t out doing the real manual labor.

I got to enjoy the bounty. My grandmothers’ tomatoes and corn, peas and butter beans, strawberries and cucumbers were all features of their summer tables, in fresh-from-the-field dishes. Canned and frozen versions appeared in the fall and winter months. Pickles, jams, and all things good lined their shelves and filled their freezers.

In my childhood home, gardening wasn’t a hobby, it was a necessity.

I wish I could say I learned this skill from these women, but I didn’t. At the time, I was too young, and later, too busy, to value the knowledge and the work of putting food on the table the old-fashioned way. I thought, in some place in my younger-self brain, that growing your own food wasn’t glamorous. It was too lowly. It wasn’t where I would put my efforts. Give me a nice clean grocery store, vegetables and fruit clean and neatly arranged in artistic rows.

No sweat and dirt for me, thank you!

Now I look out over these rows and I’m wistful. I wish, sometimes, I could be still long enough to see a season through from the planting to the harvesting. I wish I could know the satisfaction of raising my own food. I look back at the women of my youth and I appreciate them in a different way. They were hard workers, and they were so knowledgeable. How did I miss that? How could I think that because they weren’t well educated in a formal sense that I couldn’t learn from them?

I don’t know that I ever really thought that. But I demonstrated it. I didn’t try to learn what they knew. I took it for granted, and shelved what I saw into the category of “nothing I’ll ever need to know.”

I wish I could go back and sit with them, appreciate them from an adult point of view. I wish I could tell them how proud I am of them, how inspired I feel by them. Knowing, as I know now, more about their lives, how hard they worked, how selflessly they gave.

I look out over the rows and I feel it, the call to my blood. Is it some sort of genetic memory? I don’t even know if such a thing exists, or if I believe in that. But something pulls. Maybe it’s just nostalgia for connection to the land that I used to have, through them.

Maybe it’s knowing I missed chances, and I don’t want to do that anymore.

My grandmothers knew I loved them. I said that, many times. But I don’t know if they knew I respected them. I’m not sure I did, as my younger self. I didn’t think of them in that way. But now…now, I wish I could tell them that.

I respect them for the love they showed, for their work, for who they were in their time of life. Their lives were so different from mine. But finally, looking out over the vineyard, I know that’s not important. IMG_0029




What is important is that they lived their purpose, and planted a heritage.

And I thought they were just planting vegetables…

Last of summer

I’m traveling to Seattle tonight, going to turn in my summer sandals and bag. Time to switch to shoes with toes, pull out my turtlenecks, get ready for the October rains. I know they’re headed my way!

But first, a break, and some time with the littles, and a road trip. Aahhh!

And here’s the last of summer photos from a week ago. I’m never tempted to swim in  Alaska waters. Too cold for me. But the views are amazing!

Here’s to the end of summer, and to the coming fall…hello pumpkin! :)







A day in the life

Yesterday we ended a month at one work site and began a week at another one. This is such a short stay it will fly by, and then we have a time out.

We started the morning with clean up. It’s my routine to leave the temp housing ready for the next guest, and I also leave a few things tucked behind for the next trip. There’s always a bit of sorting and tossing to do, and between packing and tidying, departure days start early.

The weather was a factor. We were scheduled to fly out via float plane, but the winds were too high, so we had a last-minute switch to the ferry. The tricky part is managing luggage between ferry and airport without a vehicle, when there are several errand stops between the two. We had to revise the plan. The only thing to do was drop the luggage at the airport first so we could navigate the stops without a struggle.

We had most of the day to spend in Ketchikan, the big city that offers a few more amenities than the small islands where we’re working. Hair cut, shopping, lunch, and mail pick up were all on the list.

Here’s where the frustration of the Ketchikan airport comes in. To drop off luggage for the afternoon flight we had to catch the airport ferry to a different island. (I’m always irritated that the airport is on a different island than the community. A five-minute crossing separates the two islands.) The ferry runs twice each hour, and everything is about timing. So we came off the state ferry like a small traveling circus, four roller bags, two back packs, and my purse, which this go-round is one of those large summer beach bags.

(Yes, my purse is really like a small child that travels with us. Can’t be left alone, is about the same size as a five-year-old, and has to have its own seat on the plane. I could store other small beings in it, it’s that roomy. You get the idea. :) )

With about 15 minutes to the next airport ferry run, we took a cab from the state ferry terminal down the street, made it to the airport ferry dock, crossed over, dropped the luggage off, and came back to the Ketchikan side. Thanks to the timing of the airport ferry, that only took an hour.

Then, because it was only raining lightly, we opted to walk.

If you’ve ever come to Ketchikan on a cruise, or just happened to wander there for some other reason, you’ll know that the main thoroughfare of the community is Tongass Avenue, which runs the length of the town and extends out to either end of the island. The stretch in town is probably between two and three miles, and we didn’t have to walk that whole way.

We had a strategic route to hit the four stops we needed to make and get back to the airport ferry in time for the 3:15.

First, we needed to pick up mail. At this point, there’s not a lot of mail that accumulates. We take advantage of all the online bill paying options and notifications available. But there’s always something in the box, and we check it anytime we’re in town. Occasionally we have mail forwarded, but at $20 a pop to have mail sent to us, when most of what collects is just the junk, it’s worth the stop if we’re passing through.

We got that done. There was a replacement debit card in the pile of catalogs, fliers, and otherwise very-important stuff, so worth the stop. Then it was on to the really critical stop: haircut and eyebrow waxing.

I love a good brow wax. When I started doing this for myself a few years ago, it was a fun little tack-on to my regular hair cut. Little did I know that it would come to be a necessity in time.

Have you ever tried to pluck your eyebrows wearing glasses?! I can’t do it with them on, and I certainly can’t do it without! Not that I need a lot done. But it’s nice to get that silky smooth feeling every few weeks, and know that someone with better vision than me is cleaning up my brow line.

Bear with me…I know this is a first world problem, but these are the little chores you have to think about when you spend a lot of time on small islands without some of the niceties of life readily available.

After the grooming session, I wanted to look for a new rain jacket.

If you know anything about SE Alaska, you know it’s rainforest. I know, that’s surprising. Rainforest isn’t usually associated with Alaska. But it’s so. Rain here is measured in feet, not inches. As in, Ketchikan gets an average of 13 feet of rain each year.

So rain gear is a good thing.

My last jacket’s been showing signs of wear, getting a little thin in spots, and I just found a rip in a seam. Time to replace.

In case you haven’t been shopping for rain gear lately, let me tell you, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a name brand. The most expensive (and ugliest) option I saw was a mere $500. I’m not kidding! It was hideous and outrageous. That’s a pretty good feat, for rain gear.

I looked at several brands…Columbia, North Face, some knock off labels, and wound up with a Helly Hansen jacket. It’s sort of a bright salmon color (appropriate: Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world) and was a mere $100. A bargain among the other options, and I’ll be easy to spot half a continent away! :)

Then, on to lunch. When restaurant options are limited on the small islands where we work (that’s a generous way to express it) a lunch date is something to look forward to.

That’s one thing that island life does for you…you learn to appreciate so many things that are commonplace in the lower 48.

I appreciate road trips, and having my own car, variety of services and shopping, options of all kinds. Often, here, if there is one of anything…grocery or any type of store or service…there’s only one.

Of course it’s our choice to work in these environments, but still. Nice to have variety.

So lunch…crab cakes and king crab, smoked salmon chowder and yummy bread, a Marion berry buckle dessert, and a friendly waiter to fetch it all.

We left the restaurant with about half an hour to get back to the airport ferry for the run across to the airport. We didn’t make it too far before giving in to the faster option of a cab. Even without luggage we didn’t have time to walk it.

One more ferry ride, then check in with the small inter-island airline for the afternoon flight.

We made it to our next place by early evening, unpacked at the apartment, and squeezed in a grocery run for the week. Funny how the routines of home keeping follow you around, even in temporary lodging.

Epic? Grand adventure? Not really. But I learn, I discover, I savor.

Just another day in the life. The good stuff.



Afternoon flight

Afternoon flight

One of Alaska's creepy crawlies

One of Alaska’s creepy crawlies

Saturday favorites

I’ve been collecting a few suggestions…in the spirit of paying it forward these are some things I’d recommend to everyone! :)

Getting ready to do some baking. I never get tired of playing in the kitchen! That’s why I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer to this little apartment, along with a few other essentials. Here are a mix of my current favorites, both savory and sweet, tools and foods.

  • Parchment paper – what a difference this makes in baking. Easy clean up. I particularly love using parchment paper for baking brownies…leave a generous margin of paper hanging over the sides of the brownie pan and just lift out the brownies when baked. Easier to cut brownies out of the pan. When I first tried parchment paper, I was frugal, using it only for certain things.  Now it comes out almost any time I turn on the oven.
  • Silicone baking pans – I’m only beginning to use these, but what I’ve used so far I like. The added bonus: you can shape all sorts of stuff in these…handmade soap or other crafts. Multi-purpose!
  • Cauliflower “mashed potatoes” – I’ll admit when I make this version of the traditional mash I add a little butter and sometimes sour cream to the mix…the flavor is so good I hardly notice the substitution of cauliflower for potato. Best tip: if you want a little more body to your “mash,” add a small potato or two to the head of cauliflower. You’ll still have a lower carb dish, but it will be a little sturdier…maybe a good step down from the all-potato mash.
  • Big wide shreds of parmesan…I can sometimes find this wide shred in the grocery, usually in the specialty cheese section, but if you can’t find it, buy a gorgeous big hunk of parm and use a vegetable peeler to make your own wide, luxurious shreds to top pasta bakes, salads, or whatever needs a little more cheesy goodness.
  • A new favorite, I’ve only recently been roasting garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas. Delicious and simple. Start with two cans of garbanzo beans, drain and rinse. Spread the beans on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, or any seasoning that strikes your fancy. Bake/roast at 400° for approximately 30 minutes. I say “approximately” because you may want them to be more or less crunchy. My advice is to check the beans after the first 30 minutes and decide if they’re done to your taste. They’re like popcorn, only better. Good for snacking, and making salads more interesting.
  • Seattle Bakery Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread…if you can find this brand, buy it! The sourdough flavor comes through with the crunchy nuttiness of the cracked wheat…delicious toasted with jam, or use for the perfect grilled cheese. This bread comes in a big round loaf. Beautiful.
  • Burrata cheese: If you haven’t tried this, you must do so, asap! It’s wonderful, that’s all.
  • My new favorite way to prepare salmon: searing. I used to bake salmon, if I wasn’t grilling, thinking it was the best way to keep it healthy. But I always have trouble with the timing. It seems like I pull it out too fast, or just past the perfect done-ness. I tried pan searing the fresh salmon we caught last weekend, and it was perfect. Just put a little olive oil or butter (ok, I always choose butter) in your pan, and when the pan is hot, place the salmon and season. I turned the fillet once, and got it just right. Not overdone, and the texture was perfect. Outside got a little color, and the inside was medium rare. Never baking salmon again!
  • Homemade Magic Shell: (this is just fun!)
    • 8 ounces of chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

    Place coconut oil in double boiler over low heat and melt. Add chocolate chips to double boiler with the oil. Gently blend chocolate into coconut oil until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes and then drizzle on your favorite anything. Perfect for dipping fruit. Bananas, strawberries, and grapes are my favorites. Made some frozen dipped bananas recently and can verify: highly edible! Also perfect for ice cream.

In the digital world, check these out…well worth exploring.

  • PicMonkey – a fun and easy photo editor…there’s a free version and a paid version, both are great. Good for creating printables or almost anything. Look here.
  • Best way to sell online…I call it a digital garage sale. Check out your local Facebook sale site. The one for Ketchikan is called Ketchikan SaleCycle, it’s a closed group for local residents…an amazing resource if you need something, or if you’re selling. I sold most of my furniture in the move last fall, and a lot of miscellaneous household items…made over $13,000 in just a few weeks. Of course, eventually I’ll have to replace some of those things, but it was a fantastic way to sell without doing a huge one day event that might or might not have gone well. And it’s fun too…actually sort of addicting once you get going. I like it better than Craigslist. I think most communities have a local Facebook sales group. Find the digital garage sales in your area and get ready to clean out!

And finally, some random suggestions:

  • A new favorite exercise…the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro…It really works!
  • Looking to be inspired to say “No!” more often? I can’t say enough about Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I read it a few months ago, and I’m still drawing on it as I consider choices.    I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to say “no.” Recognizing that saying “no” actually honors the real priorities of my life helps me to be strong in the face of my built-in need to please. Not always easy for this Southern girl/woman to do, but I’m trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate about my answers.
  • RSVP Endurance kitchen products: I love these tools. You can find them on Amazon or in specialty kitchen stores. They’re not too pricey, but all the ones I’ve tried are good. Very good. This is a brand like Oxo…great value for the money, and whatever they make is quality. The tools are a pleasure to use.

And finally, a smile for the day:

Organic Donuts

Enjoy your weekend!   ~ Sheila

Gift of summer

This season has been a gift, in every way.

Family, friends, travel, work, play…everything has flowed, cooperated, come together just so.


This weekend was another example. We went fishing Saturday, one of the many beautiful summer days we’ve enjoyed this year. We caught three coho salmon, had a dinner of sushi and seared salmon fillet last night (couldn’t decide which taste we preferred, so we had both). Our luck is holding!








That’s a whale’s fin in this photo!

Catch of the day: