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(First, I’m going to apologize for jumping on the Story Before The Recipe trend, because I hate those posts. But this was such a win for me, I can’t help it this time. BUT NEVER AGAIN).

LAST MONDAY — Was feeling pretty trashed the day after traveling and hiking with Seattle friends to see the Larches (East Coasters go Leaf Peeping; West Coasters go Larch Peeping). I did NOT want to go to the store (who does?) to get a ton of ingredients for a dinner for four. I wanted tonight’s meal to be as mindless as possible. One pot, even. Plus, not everyone in the house (i.e. no one) is a fan of my bachelorette go-to of Sauté All The Veggies I Can Find In the Fridge, Top It With Cheese And Call It Good. Something about the amount of kale I use in it.

However, I still decided to take my chances with opening the fridge and cobbling together something from what we had. And this was a big chance to take with the teens in the house this week. I usually try to stick with proven winners, but even I’m tired of those and my foodie side was getting antsy. Thankfully though, they DO like SOME veggies, so let’s jump off the cliff and see what happens!

OK. That ground pork in the freezer should be cooked. Leftover pasta from last night? Sure. Got some extra red bell peppers in the bin, plus that massive bag of baby carrots. Good start.

“Hey Siri: give me a recipe for pork, pasta, bell peppers and carrots.”

The robot obediently gives me One Pot Pork and Veggie Pasta, which I immediately decide to hack because a) This crew won’t go for mushrooms, wilted spinach, and summer squash, b) I HATE sweet onions and c) what is this Smithfield mushroom marinated pork loin filet nonsense?

A quick run down in my head of everyone’s favorite veggies and sure enough, damnit, I had to go to the store but just for a FEW things.

However, my gut was telling me, everything is going to be OK – just turn it into “One Pot of Everyone’s Favorite Veggies With Pasta And Meat.”

Back at the house, I chop and dice veggies, make the broth from my little concentrate jar in the fridge (but barely enough, so used water), then realize I don’t have nearly enough parmesan cheese. Final hack: pull the last few mozzarella sticks out of the deli bin and chop, because all that mattered is that the cheese needed to melt easily to make the broth creamy.

Toss it all together, cook, heat up the leftover garlic bread from the night before, bowl up, and put on the table.

Everyone approaches the table, sits down, eyes what’s in their bowls. I don’t make eye contact. I just focus on my bowl, blowing it cool, spoonful by spoonful, but anticipating leftovers.

It’s a quiet at first (which isn’t unusual at our house). Then Jeremy, as he always kindly says after a few bites, “Thank you for making dinner. This is pretty good.”

Usually the boys follow with quiet “Thank you’s” which I am always appreciative of. But, then the 13 YO says, “Yes! This is great!”

Then the 15 YO follows up with “Yep, this is really good.”

Well, just push me off that cliff because I was stunned. Then the 13 YO is picking up his bowl and slurping down the rest of the broth, ending his meal with “That was delicious!”

Again, stunned. I thank them for their feedback and explained how I was a little nervous about this one but realized it was just everyone’s favorite veggies with pasta and meat in a bowl, and thankfully the veggie and soup gods came through for me.


One Pot Everyone’s Favorite Veggies with Pasta and Meat

I adapted it from this recipe:



  •  1 lbs of ground pork 
  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  •  1 white onion diced
  •  3 cloves garlic minced
  •  10 ounces cherry tomatoes cut in half
  •  1 zucchini diced
  •  1 red pepper, cut into small chunks
  • 1 head of broccoli, stem removed, florets divided out
  • 1-2 cups of baby carrots, cut into thirds
  •   1 pound pasta (I used Cascatelli, which I get from Trader Joes)
  •  4 cups chicken broth, plus a little more to make it more soup-like
  •  1/4 cup heavy cream
  •  1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or ½ cup Parm, ½ cup Mozzarella)
  •  6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • Garlic bread, to serve with


  1. Heat a large dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan.
  2. When oil is shimmering and heated, add onion and ground pork and cook until pork is cooked and onion is softened, stirring often. Season with a few dashes of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
  3. Add the garlic, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, red bell pepper, and uncooked pasta to the pot. Pour in the chicken broth and stir to combine. For more of a soup, add more broth or water so liquid level is just at or slightly above the meat/pasta/veggies.
  4. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, check veggies to make sure they don’t get too soft.
  5. Add the cream and Parmesan cheese (or Parm/Mozz mix) to the pot and cook for 1 minute, stirring to combine.
  6. Stir in the spinach and continue cooking 2 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.
  7. Serve immediately. Top with more mozzarella or parm. Serve with garlic bread.

Calories: 650-ish.

This photo from a New York Times Cooking ad has been in my social media feed for a few weeks now. The craving for it intensifies each time I scroll past it. I described it to my 10-year-old nephew the other day on FaceTime, after he and Nonna announced they were making a yellow cake because “Well, Nonna just wants some yellow cake!”

Well, Zia wants some Funfetti cake! Oh, Funfetti! I remember when Mom came home with this new boxed cake. It was DELICIOUS. Even though it’s just white cake with sprinkles, I remember that cake stood out as one of the best of my childhood.

Aside from the colorful sprinkles, because I’m attracted to bright colors like a raccoon is to shiny things, what really gets me is that frosting.

The edges are squared off, but are not smooth like fondant or ganache. There are still knife swirls on the frosting, giving it some texture. Specifically, my eye goes immediately to that upper left quadrant – there’s a depression in the frosting, like a crust edge. Or the cake sunk a bit as it cooled.

The frosting looks waxy, or crusty, like how frosting dries out a bit a few hours after application.

Then when a knife slices through it, the frosted edges of each slice crumble a bit, as if one were to slice a knife through a semi-soft wax candle.

So then I look at the sliced edges of the cake in the picture and see the perfect smooth lines. Same goes for the slices. Those slices are cut like perfect wedges of a Trivial Pursuit game piece. And those sprinkles are NOT disturbed.

There is something about all those edges that are incredibly satisfying to look at. So perfect.

Way to go, Food Stylist Lady, way to go.


(For the record, here is Nonna and Nipote’s cake – NAILED IT.)

I suppose it should be put down for the historical and official record that, after 2 years and 6 days, about a dozen masks, several on/off mask mandates, two Moderna vaccines, one Pfizer booster, one house move, two tenants, one new standup desk, and three negative COVID tests…

I finally got COVID.

Literally a week after the state’s mask mandate had been removed. How… ironic.

It started out innocently enough – March 19, 2022 – lazy Saturday morning, late breakfast out, browse through some bookstores, come back to the house to nap it all off.

But I just couldn’t shake the feeling of being a bum and was totally content lying on the couch for the whole day, rotating through books, magazines and social media. I’m not very good at doing this type of thing but I’d also just come off a very busy few weeks where I felt I was behind constantly, and had finally caught up by the end of the week. So, it felt appropriate to be a bit tired.

This also was a rare moment to claim “The Spot” on the couch for longer than a few episodes of Letterkenny or a movie, the best TV viewing spot in the house that is normally occupied by two boy teenagers and/or their father, for naps, reading, sci-fi drama viewing, video games, YouTube bingeing or phone scrolling.

So, I stayed on that couch as long as I could. I TRIED getting up several times – I even threw off the blanket but, with no real plan for what would happen once I got up, I threw that blanket right back over me. Besides, I had Sunday to do All The Adult Things.

Sunday started out oddly early. We have to move in a couple months, so I’m in a decluttering phase (again). Worked on clearing out a bookshelf, sat in on a weekly writing workshop, meal planned for the next 10 days. The rest of the day’s goals: do the grocery shopping, food prep as much as possible for the week’s meals, maybe tackle cleaning that overly papered bulletin board covered in stickers and old physical therapy workouts.

All I remember though is that while groceries were purchased and food was prepped, by Sunday evening there was a slight irritation in the throat and a little dry cough popping up.

Monday morning, something didn’t feel right. And I knew something was definitely wrong when the thought of getting ready for work was exhausting, and I most definitely shouldn’t have felt that way for this particular Monday. I had two days of field producing with our film crew that I love working with.

So that was a disappointing phone call. And then scrambling to finalize a few details for them since I wasn’t going to be joining them.

And then it really started to hit. It felt vaguely familiar. Like the same symptoms I had after my COVID vaccination shots and booster. Tired, sniffly, short dry cough, slight pressure in the chest, chills. While the at-home COVID test showed negative, just before bed Monday night, my temperature was 100.2.

(Just as important is tracking the At Home and Sick Entertainment that was consumed. For Monday, I killed the day with Season 2 of the silly show Upload, and we watched an excellent and moving documentary about photographer Gordon Parks. Also, I bemoaned not having access to The Price is Right.)

Before bed, we decided that I should probably isolate for a few days to see how this plays out in case it is COVID, so I holed up in one of the other bedrooms that night. Throughout the night and until about Tuesday afternoon, symptoms developed into what felt like a terrifically horrible cold with a touch of flu and laryngitis. They started to stabilize Tuesday afternoon, thankfully. But it was all concentrated in the upper chest and sinus region.

At-home COVID test on Tuesday afternoon: Positive.

That’s when we really locked me up.

Jeremy started getting into the routine of checking in on me via text and taking food and drink orders, which he would leave outside the bedroom door. Temperature came in at 100.4 Tuesday evening.

(I finally caught Season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, thus fulfilling the Mid-20th Century Drama genre of my preferred TV-watching categories.)

Wednesday, I felt a teeny bit better but still pretty much a blob of endless mucus, with a frog voice and a painful sore throat. The body aches had gone away but my brain still was in no mood for processing anything. Yet I felt compelled to carry out my civic duty and reached out to folks I’d been in contact with the previous week, and contacted my primary doctor and the county public health COVID line to report my case. Received a litany of instructions on how long to isolate, mask, etc., from the county people (“drink lots of liquids, like OBNOXIOUS amounts of liquids, more than ever before” – county RN). Temp: 99.0

(I dove into the four-part documentary about LuLaRoe, which pretty much left me slack-jawed during most of the viewing. I owned a few pairs of leggings a few years ago, didn’t think they were THAT great, gave them away. This fulfilled the Junk Food Documentary genre.)

3 a.m. Thursday morning: I woke up with the most painful sore throat I could remember in a very long time, and as of this writing, at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, have slept only about an hour since then. Jeremy convinced me to move back to our bedroom today where it’s bigger and more comfortable (he’ll sleep on the couch for a night or two until he’s in the clear, which is looking good so far). I still sound like hell, on the verge of losing my voice. Temp this morning: 98.5. So, that’s good.

Another phone call from the county, this time from an RN to check in. We discussed my symptoms and timeline in more details – she counted my day of fatigue on Saturday, March 19 as my day of on-set symptoms, so I get to leave strict isolation Friday, March 25 and general isolation by Tuesday, March 29.

Technically, I should be in 10 days of isolation, but I can engage with the people in the house after 5 days if my symptoms are improving and I don’t have any fever (check) but still have to wear a mask. I can join the real world again in person on March 30, without a mask.

So, that’s where we’re at. It’s been a ride. As Jeremy just put it, “Dude. This thing kicked your ass. Good thing you’re vaccinated.”

(I have yet to watch anything so far today, but tonight will likely be the 1997 movie, Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, with Judi Dench, to fulfill the English Monarchy Drama genre. There is also Blazing Saddles, Four Weddings and Funeral, and Bridge Jones’ Diary, which are all regulars when I’m sick. Also, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which would be especially appropriate since we just watched a great documentary on Truman Capote and now I want to read everything he wrote, especially In Cold Blood.)

(Post edit: I finished watching I Want You Back during dinner, fulfilling the Romantic Comedy genre of this At Home And Sick Entertainment chapter and will now move on the English Monarchy Drama genre for the rest of the evening.)

10:13 a.m.

Or more like Friday Brain meltdown?

The first week of the new year, after a slow on-vacation/off-vacation holiday. By Jan. 2, I was ready to get back into the swing of life. And it shows, as my to-do list for work on Monday, Jan. 3 was extensive, yet not complicated, so it was easy work to jump on at the beginning of the year.

But no wonder I’m tired by today, Friday. Hormones and the effects of my booster shot are probably playing a part of my lethargy.

Oh, 2022. As usual, folks are setting goals, ideas, hopes, dreams, as most do for the beginning of a year.

Me? Meh. Nothing really matters anymore, really.

I mean, some things do. My work is important. Pursuing creative endeavors is important. Staying healthy is important. Being social is important.

I think that last bit is what I’m struggling with. I essentially moved to PT during the middle of COVID and it’s been a bit hard to make new friends through various groups, as I typically do. And the darkness these days. I noticed (and literally, just this second, as the sun suddenly came out) that merely sunshine alone, shining into my space, drastically changes my attitude.

Moving to California seems like such a great idea right now.

But, I have fun things to look forward to. The first trail race of 2022 is in 8 days – a 25K that I’ve been training for since October, through all the fall and winter rain and snow and blustery-ness.

My birthday is in March, and we’re trying to find some place sunny to hit up that has the least chance of possibly being cancelled. Grand Canyon was on the table but then we saw the average temp was 51 degrees in March, so we nixed that and started looking at places like Cabo – I have the airline miles and an enhanced drivers license (booooo there goes the sun now), and the prices for all-inclusive resorts seem reasonable in March. Which then in turn creates a new goal of getting in a little bit of shipshape for a swimsuit vacation, thus forcing me to clean up my eating habits, which would be so helpful in trying to figure out why I have some sort of congestion in my chest practically daily in the morning – is it the coffee? tea? bread? eggs? yogurt? poor air quality in the house? just eating in the morning in general?

New team at work has been a nice change. Stepping up a bit and helping make changes in our department that my new boss and I would like to see has been refreshing.

Oh, four minutes left.

Creative endeavors this year – working on that book. Food memoir. Research right now, involving interview family members and deciding on different topics to further research, such as the state of fresh food in the late 1970s when I was born, versus when I started the Bremerton Farmers Market, versus today.

Before the holidays, to help me get into the weekly habit of working on my book, we would do “Memoir Monday” in a bar in town – grab a beer, food and write. The problem is that there’s only, like, two places in town where I liked to work and only one of them served food on Mondays. Thankfully, a new place opened up that wants to cater to the locals with cheap eats and laid back atmosphere. I’m antsy to go try it. Interviewed Dad already, need to go through those notes and determine what I need with a follow-up interview. Need to create interview question list for Mom and set a time to interview her.

Tomorrow, the last long run before my race – the 12 mile route on the Chetzemoka Trail around town, something I’ve been wanting to do since I learned about it.

10:28 a.m.

This memory from 5 years ago, while it doesn’t seem much other than a pretty beach picture, holds a lot of weight. It was taken while on a work trip to the coast, actually providing a moment of peace in the middle of a crazy year that involved planning a national conference, training for and completing a 200-mile bike ride adventure, ending a relationship, and trying to figure out who and what and where I wanted to be. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the year ahead would hold a new relationship and more volunteer adventures.

I was frustrated with finding balance in life. I’d reached out to a friend, who gave me some sound advice that I put in a blog post in August 2016, where I reflected on a backpacking trip during which I’d had an anxiety attack, trying to make sense of it all:  

“Talking with a friend the other night, he said, you just have to learn to say no. Truly listen to what you want to do and do it. It doesn’t make you weaker or less of a person if you don’t climb mountains all the time, or decide you want to have an in-town weekend, or if you want to do yoga all the time instead of sports, or embrace your new found love for biking, or pick up a water sport.


Three days after that emotional backpacking trip, I was sitting at a campground on the Pacific coast. I was there for two days of work but I couldn’t bring myself to find a hotel or sleep in the Jetta. I wanted to sleep as close as possible to the ocean. So I tossed the tent, sleeping bag and pillow in the car. A few snacks. Backpacking stove and a dehydrated meal for my dinner, which I delightedly and slowly ate on the beach as I people-watched. I could feel the sticky but refreshing layer of the saltwater on my skin. I’d been excited by the idea of sleeping by the ocean, by myself. Ironically, all completely forced by logistics of work.

And maybe my friend is right.

Maybe I should buy a surfboard.

That friend was Jeremy. Over time, he would become one of my favorite people in our mountain rescue unit. We wouldn’t start dating for another 3 years. Last week was our 2-year anniversary. 

We went surfing together in March.

We’re currently working through figuring out this “summer,” which really doesn’t feel like a summer. It’s weird, hard, emotional, triggering and stressful, not chill and relaxing and summery at all. We haven’t been to the mountains at all this summer and I think that’s part of our “meh, who cares, nothing matters anymore” attitude right now.

That all said, I wouldn’t want to try and do this with anyone else. We were watching Ted Lasso last night and Ted asked Higgins how he dealt with the hard stuff in life with his wife. Higgins replied: it’s not hard when you have someone with you that makes it easy.

Happy Anniversary, babe. I’ll take all the moments we can get, from people watching at Sirens over a shared plate of nachos and beer, to working through a pandemic, to running away to the mountains together.

Sunday, July 11

I just got done with my first writing workshop, the first since college. Not just a workshop on how to write blogs or use web sites or other fancy communications tools, but legit, no frills, down-to-earth writing.

My brain is exhausted and fried right now. I should go for a run. But I have thoughts I need to get out.

Author Molly Wizenberg taught “What Food Writing Can Do” this morning. She’s a memoir writer and co-host of my favorite podcast “Spilled Milk.” I’ve read two of her three books. She’s my age. I connect with many things she talks about on her podcast as a midwest kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, even though the podcast is actually about food (but she and her co-host just slay me with their constant pop culture references).

Even though I’ve been writing professionally since 2001, it’s always been in the form of journalism – first for a newspaper for four years; for a Native American natural resources consortium for the past 15+ years.

As a kid, I LOVED reading and writing ridiculous wild stories. I had a reading tree. My sixth grade teacher encouraged me to get my alternative version of Cinderella printed in our local weekly paper. I also wrote a play that year (“The Day in the Life of a Sixth Grader”) and directed it on the last day of school before the 5th and 6th grade classes.

But, the idea of writers, to me, was so… boring. Writing magazines that would come through Language Arts classes never inspired me. Reading about writing bored me. During all of my schooling, I loved reading and writing assignments (and I’ve been keeping a journal since 1990), but anything to HELP me with my writing just turned me off.

(I WILL SAY though, my grandmother got me started on reading James Kilpatrick’s column “On Language” which was about the extent of my engaged “reading about writing” practice. And I told myself early in life not to take edits personally because all writers need editors.)

After I got settled into my young adult life near Seattle, I started to discover other things – mountaineering, garden groups, biking, trail running, volunteering – and didn’t really dedicate time to outside-of-work writing. I made a few web sites and blogs over the years, mainly to post pictures and trip reports about the fantastic adventures I was experiencing (and you know, ’cause writers have blogs, right?)

I also thought writers were introverted quiet types, who sit for hours on end musing and writing and musing and more writing. Often in the lofts over garages, or a really super cheap rented studio that is not in a good neighborhood. Or even Hunter S. Thompson style, in an alcohol- or drug-infused rage.

For anyone who knows me in real life, I don’t sit still, not for very long anyway. I am on the go and typically going at 100 at that. And if projects are involved, they’re typically short-term driven. Nor am I a raging alcoholic or drug addict.

So, I didn’t have “time” to write.

Until Jeremy asked me to help with a photography project in 2019. Just some captions for his photos about the maritime trades. I’d just gone through a break up that tore me up and it was a great way to throw my energy into something creative.

Those captions turned into mini essays. And, frankly, they were really good. I was pretty proud of them. They were incredibly freeing, tickling awake that long buried creative writer vibe within. They made the photographer cry. Other feedback included from someone in the boat yard (who I’ve never met): “I have never been as proud of what I do till I read what Tiffany wrote.”

That made me pause. Maybe, just maybe, if I take a page from Jeremy’s book about dedication and focus, I could work with this. How could I make this craft better? Make it my own? Could I someday produce a written body of work that only I’ve envisioned and developed, that is not directed by my paying gig or intended to support someone else?

Another sign I had in my head that qualified “Being a Writer” was that I had to have a deep desire to write the “Great American Novel.” I’ve never EVER felt that. I’ve never felt like I’ve had fiction stories inside me that need to be put out into the world. And I was never able to articulate that until I sat in on author Erica Bauermeister’s webinar last fall on her memoir about remodeling a house.

She was talking about her writing methods and noted that she’d never had fictional characters inside her that she needed to write about. She thought the non-fiction genre was her gig… until she was struggling with writing the house memoir and dipped her toe into fiction. Turns out, she DID have fiction stories in her to write and they’ve gone on to become best sellers.

I ALSO have long believed that I need to live some insanely fantastical life to create a well from which to pull my stories. Jeremy calls BS on that – you can find some fantastical stories in your own backyard. We are doing that with the Maritime Project. Hell, I’ve somewhat been doing that for 20 years with my day job, now that I think about it.

And Molly put it another way today – two different people can write about the same thing, but the difference would be in the quality of the writing. Something as simple as writing about a delicious slice of cake. An OK writer would use adjectives; a good writer would use concrete language (yay, a new term I learned today!) to create a visual, pulling the reader in with them, as if they’re sharing that cake together. And I realized recently, I’ve always enjoyed that kind of writing – short stories and essays that really dive into the details of a particular moment or thing.

That all said, still, I’ve never really thought I had a story to tell.

Until I started cooking for others on a regular basis. Namely, my partner and his kids.

I never realized that a lot of people just aren’t into food like me, my family and a good chunk of my friends. Those who may not always seek out the most local and fresh foods, and then pour energy into making a meal that lends to rolling your eyes into the back of your head as your savor that first bite. Like, you don’t embrace the first tomato out of the garden? Or just eat bowls and bowls of roasted and sautéed vegetables after hauling home overstuffed produce bags from the farmers market or your friends’ houses because they grew too much? Create a four-part YouTube video series on your father’s smoked turkey method?

I’ve really had a hard time understanding this and getting over it. What IS my relationship with food? Why DO I enjoy spending hours in the kitchen making three different meals to eat on for a week, a bit stressed from trying to use ALL the fresh food that my wallet couldn’t stop bleeding for? Why is it that my mouth waters while reading REALLY good writing about food and the stories that come with it?

Then I started to think about how food has played a role in my entire life – all 42 years of it. Not just because I need it to survive, but my dad’s gardens, my mom made-from-scratch meals, my desire to help start a farmers market, then a food co-op, supporting local farmers, that quaint moment in a little cafe in Florence, Italy eating wild boar ragout with my 5 month-old nephew asleep and cradled in my arms…

SO many things.

Scene: McMenamin’s, Bend, Oregon, May 2021. Jeremy and I are settled in for an evening of pizza and beer after a day of adventure. Our conversations often lead to discussing his creative desires, which is storytelling through photography, and our maritime trades project. But occasionally, he pushes back on me – what do YOU want to create? What do YOU like to think about? How can I support your creative desires?

I often struggle with that answer. I honestly just think I live life in the moment and what’s coming up next. But something (the beer likely?) snapped in me and the first thought came to mind: Food.

Suddenly, I’m unleashing A LIFETIME of food memories into a tiny 3″ by 5″ blank notebook that I had with me. We sketched out a possible outline of chapters. I thought about everything from how I ate my college roommates’ leftovers (just throw some salsa on it, it’ll be finnnnnneeee) to learning how to cook Brussel sprouts and parsnips from my urban farmer neighbor who introduced me to community-supported agriculture.

And since then, the idea of writing about my memories with food has stuck with me.

I realize I have a lot to do and learn – the tricks of how to write a memoir; read other memoirs (food-based and otherwise); interview family and friends who have been part of these food memories; dig out my journals in hopes that I captured some of the bigger moments that stand out; learn how write about memories when memories are fuzzy; decide if I want to include recipes; when do I want the food memories to stop?

(As a woman who has never bore children, I am amused by the idea of ending a food memoir at the moment that I am jumping off a cliff to start a food adventure with teenagers, because everyone pretty much knows how that story goes. Good luck and godspeed. All I know so far is that I have to keep popcorn and Oreos in the cabinet, which is completely against my nature.)

ANYWAY – Molly’s workshop was eye opening and enlightening and inspiring and sparking. It’s made me realize that generally, there ARE NO RULES for going about writing something. And that “Being A Writer” isn’t being huddled in a corner like a hermit. There’s a lot of research and I LOVE researching things. And interviewing people. And sharing.

So, not sure how to end this. Some of you may be, “Well, yeah, Tiffany. This all tracks. Have you looked at your Instagram account lately?”

It’s … it’s just nice to be excited about a writing project finally, after, for nearly four decades, not really feeling like a writer.

Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Scene: Open bag of Juanita’s tortilla chips next to me, hand mindlessly reaching for chip after chip after chip. No salsa.

Jeremy is out covering a sailboat race this week, so it’s just been me at the house since 6 a.m. Monday morning. He doesn’t get back until sometime Sunday.

Leading up to this week, I was looking forward eating in and eating healthy, going to bed early, getting quality sleep and having the WHOLE bed to myself. I was going to have dedicated quiet time to write for the maritime project. I was going to watch the scale go down. I had very few scheduled responsibilities outside of work. I told myself I’d clean the fridge of junk food, and dive into the delicious garden vegetables and greens from our farm share that I am overloaded with at the moment. I was going to treat the quiet time like a writing retreat. You hear of people who embrace this kind of quiet as a time for reflection and deep thinking and “getting good work done” and I was going to try and do the same. Then, reward myself at the end of the week with visits to Bremerton and Seattle to see friends I hadn’t seen in forever. I even made two quiches to eat over the course of several dinners and lunches so I didn’t have to cook too much.

Yeeaaahhh. You know where this is going. I can hear you laughing. 

By Tuesday evening, I’d devolved into that teenager whose parents left her at home for a week by herself with no rules. 

Let’s cover the responsible things that I have done while by myself:

  • I let the property management people into the house for the annual inspection. Passed with flying colors. 
  • I ate at the house for almost three days straight.
  • I did my paying job. 
  • I gave someone a ride home from the Hood Canal Bridge. 
  • I did some landlordy-things with one of my tenants.
  • I put on real pants.
  • I took out the garbage and recycling. 
  • I supported a few friends’ businesses.
  • I showered.

Now, let’s talk about devolved me: 

  • Instead of throwing out the junk food or hiding it, I ate it all. 
  • I left the house maximum once a day. I did not do the 10-minute walk to most of my destinations like I could have; Instead, I definitely drove down the hill and spent 10 minutes looking for parking.
  • Instead of writing or editing for the maritime project, I found myself on the couch, surfing the Roku, finishing up “Rutherford Falls” and watching the entire “season” (if you can call 6 episodes a season) of “We Are Lady Parts.” I also fully intend to continue watching “Emily In Paris.”
  • I have dug my hands, more than once, into the Adventure Food Bin, full of nothing but junk food for running, biking and skiing adventures ONLY, when I was absolutely not hungry.
  • I have talked outloud to myself more than once (which actually isn’t too odd for a writer).
  • I have wandered aimlessly around the already tidy house, wondering what I did with myself when I lived alone in Bremerton.
  • I have had zero desire to run, practice yoga, or do any of my physical therapy that I should be doing.
  • I have gone to bed no earlier than 11:30 every night (which is super late for me).
  • I have totally aimlessly scrolled on my phone in bed.
  • I attempted to weed whack the yard, but given I’ve only used a weed whacker, like, three times in my life, I kept busting the line, so now I have a weed whacker with no line. Have forgotten to go to the hardware store (and told Jeremy he needs to give me tips). 
  • I ate gelato, THEN dinner one night.
  • I Tracker-Junkied the sail race all week, way more than I should have, across various platforms.
  • I slept in the guest room of a friend’s house in the town I used to live in up until 3 months ago (this just felt weird not being able to go to my little house but ever grateful for Maria’s hospitality).
  • I ran an experiment with Reddi-Whip and Strawberries: Question: Do local farm berries or store-bought berries taste better when popped into a mouth full of whipped cream that is sprayed directly from the can? Answer: farm berries (burst of sugar happens sooner).
  • I took a bathroom selfie of the second time I dressed up this week.
  • I’m still eating that bag of tortilla chips, and currently am overcooking the chicken that’s in the oven right now because I’m too busy writing and can’t be bothered to eat something real.

Just over 12 years and 2 months ago, Christopher Jones was having a lie down on this couch, waiting for me to show up. He didn’t have any pants on; he quickly threw a blanket over him when I poked my head in the cracked open front door, surprising him. I stepped away quickly, blushing while he grabbed his jeans and made himself presentable.

This couch is in the same place it was then. Even though it’s been rearranged a few times in the living room, it’s back against the NE corner of the living room.

I’m having my own lie down on the couch right now (with pants on, thankyouverymuch) as this is, like the former owner of the house was experiencing, the last time I’ll be enjoying this piece of furniture.

It’s been here for more than 12 years under my ownership, part of the grand package of furniture I inherited when I bought this house, and who knows how long before that. The tags don’t give any indication of a production date.

It has a subtle texture, small rectangles patterned on the khaki upholstery. It has tall side arms and just the right amount of depth for sitting.

It’s seen ski movie nights, boyfriends, post-first date emotions, lonely holidays, knee surgery recovery, family visits, a baby shower, Christmas cookie parties, swipes on Tinder with two of my best guy friends next to me, parties for no reason other than my tenant and I were in our early 30s and single, been a host of the Snowpoclypse House of Refugees parties, a crash pad for city friends before we headed west to the Olympics, glitter under the cushions when tutus were sewn, squeezed 5 people on there for a movie, snuggled a small 2.5 YO while we watched cars for the 87th time, some hard line editing, where I tried not to die of heat exhaustion, home of accent cushions made by my mother, where I was nearly proposed to, late nights where I turned on some pretty terrible off-cable TV, where I decided to gamble everything last summer and move forward even though I wasn’t sure if my heart was ready to but knew that this was a chance I needed to take…

It is also a fantastic napping couch. You don’t sink into it like some overstuffed couches, but it is hard to get off it after a long evening of binge-watching Parks and Rec.

It still holds its shape and feels like it was purchased yesterday.

And, in 10 minutes, it will move on to its next chapter, with my tenant downstairs. There is a weird comfort in knowing it will stay on the property, at least for now, giving another woman a place of comfort and feeling of safety, much like it did for me the past 12 years.

Thank god for the office.

I felt the familiar pending sense of dread this morning as I laid half awake in bed, listening to the faint sounds of a boat horn or a fog horn that was growing increasingly annoying.

It was the sense of “Oh boy. Work from home is getting to me I think. It may be an office day.”

(I’ve been trying to balance WFH and going to the office to minimize exposure since the building where I work re-opened in July.)

Yesterday was what I called a half-Pandemic Blues Day. It wasn’t quite as mentally debilitating as last week’s Pandemic Blues Day, in which I sat in front of my computer with tears streaming down my face at 10 a.m. in the backyard, trying write something for work. That’s when I called it and took a Mental Health Day, which took the form of getting a coffee and a cookie, writing for 3 hours in my journal in the morning and then picking blackberries all afternoon.

Yesterday was a functional Pandemic Blues Day. I managed to work, but still felt angsty about life. The angst didn’t clear up until the afternoon when I threw as much energy as I could muster into a newsletter deadline and actually felt productive about something.

Thank god for deadlines. I have been living by them for the past 20 years. They make me move forward in life.

I was hoping this morning I’d wake up feeling rested and ready to jump into a day (and night) of lot of editing and writing (yay for two massive deadlines at once for work right now during the day, plus a personal project deadline in the evening).

But no. Again, a pending sense of dread. I thought, “I have to go into the office. I need a change of scenery.”

Don’t get me wrong – my work from home setup is pretty good. I tend to work well on the couch in the living room and the couch in one of the kid’s rooms, sometimes the cafe table in the backyard. I’m still adjusting to the latest version of my desk setup, which has a lovely view of trees, lots of light, an absurdly high-tech two-monitor and high speed GPU setup thanks to the fancy pants computer boyfriend, but frankly, it’s not comfortable and I think I finally figured out why.

My desk is just too damn big for me. After 20 years of working at generically, standard-sized desks, I’m EXHAUSTED from trying to make them work ergonomically for my small frame and short legs. Or maybe it’s not the desk as it is the chair. I’m about ready to slam down absurd amounts of money for one of those fancy Herman Miller Aeron chairs that I hear about all the time on NPR. (Or a knock-off, holy crap those things are expensive.)

I also love the 5-second commute to the desk. I feel like I get more done at home because I’m fresh in the head and do best diving into editing and writing first thing in the morning. The commute tends to chip away at that feeling by the time I get to the office.

Anyway, back to the start of the day.

I got out of bed with a defeated sigh from a poor night’s sleep, grabbed work clothes, scrubbed face, put on makeup, went downstairs to my sweet man of a boyfriend who suddenly realized his girlfriend was a distraught mess and tried to do what he could to help, packed up my computer, camera, lunch and flew out the door.

I thought I could make it to Poulsbo, 53 minutes away, without coffee and breakfast, but alas, I only made it to Chimacum and pulled into the Farm’s Reach, ordering an americano and breakfast burrito. After a few sips of coffee, the fog in my brain started to lift, as did the fog in the Chimacum Valley.

KEXP was playing Morrisey or the Smiths or some absurd nonsense like that which I despise, so I switched over to NPR, which was all politics. That was grating at first, but the Massachusetts primary results were interesting. A Kennedy, for the first time ever, lost an election.

Eventually I got tired of that and switched back over to KEXP, where the DJ was playing a song from one of the best albums of the year, “Untitled” by Sault.

Life started to feel a little more manageable.

Then the DJ announced requests for songs about getting through the first day of remote learning (boy, I feel for all those parents having to do double duty, as well as kids not being able to get the social interactions that are vital to their livelihood and development), one of them being Erasure.

Oh, Erasure. The band that introduced me to Brit pop in the 80s. Judge me all you want,, they were my first love for British music.

So, I’m heading down Highway 104, crossing over the fog-enveloped Hood Canal Bridge, stuck behind a semi, with a coffee in hand, belting out to Erasure’s “Respect” and suddenly feel OK with the world. For a second, life felt normal.

I thought about how pre-COVID, this scene was likely dreaded by most. Day in, day out, the drive, eating/drinking breakfast while driving, stuck behind slow vehicles, stressed about home life, work life, thinking about what to do about dinner that night, what’s the plan for this weekend, I need to make that doctor’s appointment, what did we do this summer, when was the last time I talked to my parents, I need to text back my sister …

But today, I embraced it. As sadistic as it may be, for a second, all the stresses taken for granted before March were felt and thought about and enjoyed.

Then the sky got a little brighter. And the fog started to lift.


For the first time in a while, I’m by myself in a functional house, revisiting what it’s like to be solo for a night.

Read: the boys are out camping and I can eat whatever I want and don’t have to share.

While the Bremerton house is torn up (so it feels), the Port Townsend house is quite settled and cozy.

But mostly what I’m interested in remembering what it’s like to only be responsible for myself for an evening.

I got to work as late as I wanted (well, I was on a major deadline today but that seemed to soften as 5 p.m. approached, so I relished in the luxury of tweaking the project as much as I could until 6 p.m.).

I already had my meal planned – I’d been looking forward to it for a week – portobello mushroom and chicken sausage cooked in a tomato sauce with spinach, topped with very strong parmesan cheese. And I didn’t have to share it with anyone! But I wanted to make rice to go with it. Which meant I had to figure out the rice cooker.

Note: I can barely cook rice on the stove to save my life. I’ve barely been successful with the oven method. Tonight though, I figured if I couldn’t cook rice in that stupid lidded pot with a few buttons, there would be no hope for me.

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