Category Archives: brilliant ideas

Growing Mushrooms Inside Your House

Some Pacific Northwest people have gone outside to get mushrooms during this recent bumper crop of fungi, but not us.

Did you know you could grow mushrooms inside from a kit from Cascadia Mushrooms?

I had no idea until after taking a farm tour, my dad brought this plain, brown block to us to try it out. And no thanks to me it worked!
growing mushrooms insideKits are 100% Certified Organic blocks of enriched, sterilized hardwood sawdust fully colonized by mycelium, a hardy strain of Shiitake. Just have your husband spray water on it twice a day and BAM! here they come!shitake mushroomsEarly on, we had a super-achiever.big shitake mushroomThe Hubs We harvested the bounty today and will resoak the block for another round of ‘shrooms. It’s reusable for many more times.harvested mushroomsAnd if you’re really lucky, someone will use these delicious, fresh mushrooms to make you breakfast!eggs and mushroomsMmmmmmmmm.

How to Go Ziplining (for anxious, whiny babies)

Are you like me?

Have you become a parent, settled down into home life and couch-dom and gained weight accumulated more and more anxieties? While at the same time drinking wine and enviously watching others soar through life on tv, confronting gravity and their fears?

That plus the ease of regretful emails is why my friends and I went ziplining when we recently met up in Utah.

Yes, I sent the email…but I didn’t think any of them would say yes. We’re all 40-mumblemumble-year-old moms with young lives relying on us. But once the ball got rolling, it apparently couldn’t stop. I couldn’t bail when it was my idea, right?

To help us acclimate, we started with a short, lower zipline. Continue reading

Old friendship is less of a plant and more of a chair.

chairThis weekend I’m meeting up with tequila and Mexican food three friends from school for some girl time. We originally met in Austin, Texas but none of us lives there anymore. We scattered, like people do after graduating, and then we scattered again. Some of us mostly me had several times of scattering before stretching roots out and you mostly them were well-advised to write addresses down in pencil (remember those address books with actual pages of paper?).

So it’s been 25 years since we first met and that has me thinking of what form this friendship of four women has taken. Our little circle has grown from four women to now include four husbands (all original, first husbands!), eight children, a fabulous dog *ahem* and perhaps a few cats.

But considering how far we all live from each other and yet how we all are putting our lives on “pause” to get together this weekend, this friendship at first glance reminded me of that bush in the yard.

You know the one. It sits off at the side. You can see it from the window if you lean up near the glass. You watered it a lot when it first came into your life but somewhere along the way you quit giving it the attention it deserves.

But it didn’t care. It managed to keep growing, or at least not die, despite your utter negligence.

But that bush is a distant thing and this weekend doesn’t feel like a distant thing. The fact that this gathering is even happening after several years of absence feels more like that old, comfortable chair.

This chair has four strong wooden legs with sides that rise up for you to lean on when you get tired or when you just need to shift a bit. And it has a cushion that over the years has gotten a bit warped, lumpy and imperfect.

But it still offers a soft place to land and hugs you, maybe even better than it did.

Sure, the upholstery may not be fresh, crisp or even-toned like it was brand new, but its worn spots show where tired hands have rested and where the heaviness of a body has been supported.

And even if we’ve ignored this chair too long, stacked magazines on it or moved it to a little-used corner, we need to remember it’s still a functioning chair waiting for us to uncover it and curl up in or hang a leg over the side.

It’s still a solid chair. Let’s dust it off.

Story Slam: A Chat with a Storyteller

field's end story slamLast week we held another Island Story Slam, presented by Field’s End at Treehouse Cafe on Bainbridge Island. It was our third, and once again drew a standing-room-only crowd.

Every one has such a good time at these, watching and participating (yes, I told a story!), that I felt it was worth a discussion. So I interviewed Kate Walton, a repeat storyteller who’s placed first and second at our last two story slams.

Here’s our conversation with Kate:

story slam storyteller1. Had you ever been to a story slam before? What do you think people like so much about these slams?

I hadn’t been to a Story Slam before coming across the first one you held, purely by chance. My husband and I were at The Treehouse for dinner and we heard all this laughing, so we went in, stood at the back, and caught the tail end. I was hooked right away. I think what draws people, and what certainly drew me, is the immediacy of it. Most of us spend a lot of time in front of screens these days; there’s something wonderful about having a real, live person up there telling a story without notes. It has a rawness, and a “now-ness,” that is completely refreshing.

2. You’ve placed 2nd in the last two story slams. Do you have any tips for someone thinking about storytelling? Were you nervous? How did you prepare?

I was petrified, both times. My only real advice is this: do it anyway. It’s so much fun, and the crowd could not be kinder. You won’t regret it.

I prepared by talking to myself in the car. (Yep, I was that crazy person in the ferry line.) I timed myself, and I do think that’s important. When you’re on the stage, five minutes goes by in a flash, so it’s key to work out what you can and can’t cover in that amount of time. Also, the first time I was a storyteller, it happens that I had an upper endoscopy on the morning of the competition. But I wouldn’t actually recommend that–it’s totally unhelpful.

3. What do you think makes a good story for a story slam competition?

I think it helps to have some structure: a real beginning, middle, and end. I don’t think it matters as much whether a story is funny, serious, suspenseful, or something else entirely. Anything can work well, as long as it’s engaging, and I think that’s achieved mainly through a sense of movement, i.e. having some sort of narrative arc.

4. We’ve noticed several repeat storytellers at our events. What is it that storytellers have that makes them get up there (again and again)?

To listen as intently as the Story Slam audience listens is an act of great generosity. I think any of us who have taken the stage have felt the power of that, and it’s hard not to want more of it.

5. Did you feel different about yourself or see the world differently after going up there the first time?

It is no exaggeration to say that, after a Story Slam, the world feels a little kinder, and a little better. You have survived something terrifying, and it was actually fun. And you’ve heard all these stories, often about times that were difficult in some way, and you see that people have come through them. They have quite literally lived to tell the tale–and the tales are often heartwarming and very funny.

Now that I’ve told my story up there, too, I totally agree, Kate! Thanks for your answers!


So who’s ready to be a story slam storyteller?

How to Calm an Anxious Child at Bedtime

jack-o-lanternI don’t give a lot of parenting advice here lucky for you, but I’m just putting this out there in case it could help someone else.

The Kid had a few bad dreams lately and it got to the point where she, a normally pretty calm kid, was getting anxious at bedtime anticipating more bad dreams.

Generally, in these sorts of cases I try diversionary tactics to get her mind off the negative and settle herself back down a tactic that hardly ever works for yours truly but maybe this next generation can surpass us, right?!.

That Let’s Talk about Good Things approach was not working, but the other night I remembered a technique I read in Why Worry? by Katherine Tristan for calming yourself down at night. It involved placing your hands on your heart, taking five deep breaths and thinking about something or someone you love.

With the Kid, I put my hand on her hand over her heart and tell her to remember a moment or person or anything when she felt good. Kids seem to do this very easily, any opportunity to imagine.

Then I ask her to remember how she felt in her body, were her toes wiggling, did her head tingle, was her heart beating harder, did her knees feel jiggly?

Then I suggest she think of those sensations and imagine that entire good experience as love flowing into all her cells in her body and growing to make a protective bubble around her.

Then we imagine guardian angels at the foot of her bed (really tall ones!), at the bedroom door and over the entire house.

It may sound all woo-woo if you haven’t ever tried any visualizations, but after the first night the Kid requested it over and over again. Do the thing, Mom!

She claims she hasn’t had any dreams at all since doing this (her preference, even to fun dreams).

Obviously, a really young child may not be able to do this but once they get to that age where bad dreams, monsters and nightmares come up, I’d give it a shot. Wish I’d started it earlier!

Good luck and let me know if it helps!