Books of the Past Year...or so...PART TWO

Here's the second half of my book list for the year (see part one HERE)! Let me know if you've read or plan to read any of the same books. And I'm always open to recommendations for my next book!


THE ORCHARDIST -- A slow, riveting, epic story of a man living a semi-isolated, quiet life in Eastern Washington in the late 1800s. Having survived hardship as a boy, he goes on to help some wild girls on the run. This book was quiet, but dramatic and interesting.


A COMPLAINT FREE WORLD -- I rarely dip into the 'personal development' genre, but I was feeling like everything that came out of my mouth was negative and judgmental. Sometimes negative words pop out of my mouth and I don't even mean them. Complaints, unfortunately, can be a way to connect with others, and they can also be a projection of your emotions. Negative words become a habit. And they're contagious. This book points out some words and actions that you might not realize are negative, talks about how they affect you and others, and gives tips on how to change your attitude and speech, and even what to do when someone else is complaining. I borrowed this book from the library, but I'm thinking of getting my own copy to refresh my thinking from time to time.



MY YEAR WITH ELEANOR -- A memoir of a woman who takes up a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt ("Do one thing every day that scares you.") as a guide for her life for one year. With stories from shark cage-diving to streaking down the hall to having hard conversations about relationships, this is an entertaining recap of a year of fear.


FROG MUSIC -- This book is a historical fiction, murder mystery piece set in 1870's San Francisco. The time and place of the book were quite interesting, and while the story was based on true events, it all felt a bit cartoony. I picked up this book because the author wrote ROOM, which was devastating but so good. Frog Music was just okay.


FYI, I partner with my favorite independent bookseller Powell's Books! If you click+buy a book from one of the links I post here, I'll get a small commission from Powell's so I can buy more books and tell you all about them! Yay! 


Books of the Past Year...or so...PART ONE

My reading has been a bit sporadic this last year, and so, unfortunately, is my memory about which books I've read. Writing it down always helps. I may not begin to keep a full reading journal at the moment, but I do always enjoy sharing my reads here. I'm sure I have completely blanked out on some of the books I've read recently, and a few were not worth mentioning (and one I already wrote about HERE)...but here is part one of my list of my standouts reads from the last year:


PLAYER PIANO -- Kurt Vonnegut's first novel. I found it a little bit slow moving, but so interesting and in many ways more timely than ever with the way screens+machines are dominating our lives and the way corporations are influencing society+government. Oh, and tv personalities placed in the office of President. Of course, it has that Vonnegut touch of semi-dark humor+social commentary.


THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN -- A true page-turner. I was up very late for a few days glued to this twisty mystery story. 


THE WAYWARD BUS -- No one writes characters like Steinbeck. This story dives into the inner minds and outer actions of a diverse group of people in the middle-of-nowhere California in the late 1940s, all brought together by a bus ride, and it all somehow works as not only an interesting adventure, but as a commentary on society. 


SECONDHAND SOULS -- This story is a matter of laugh and death (groan). Secondhand Souls is a sequel to A Dirty Job, so start there for a silly, surreal, sentimental read. I'll read anything Christopher Moore puts out.


THE CAMPBELL PLAN -- For a few different reasons, I've been wanting to eat less meat. Looking for  practical guide with recipes, led me to The Campbell Plan, a guide to eating according to research outlined in The China Study. The China Study is a book by a doctor presenting his research which showed a link between meat+cancer. At the time it came out, there were many critics of the books premise, but just recently the World Health Organization said, yep, some meats can increase risk of cancer. Most of the restrictions and substitutions outlined in The Campbell Plan are still a bit much for me, but the recipes for banana pancakes and sweet potato enchiladas are gems.

Part two of my list will be coming soon. Meanwhile, guess what? I've partnered up with my favorite independent bookseller Powell's Books! If you click+buy a book from one of the links I post here, I'll get a small commission from Powell's so I can buy more books and tell you all about them! Yay! 





Todd Lake+Mt Bachelor

Todd Lake+Mt Bachelor

At the beginning of June we packed up and moved to Bend, Oregon. After a honeymoon-like summer, it's now becoming more real. Pre-K has begun. Resumes are floating around. Here we are, Oregonians. Here we are, living in a too-good-to-be-true town. No, it's not perfect. Yes, a great deal of people (many from the Bay Area) are moving to Bend (even the moving truck rental guy commented on it). Maybe it's growing and changing too quickly, especially from the perspective of people who have been here for decades. Change is hard. Change is inevitable. I, of course, can't speak for all the new Bendites, but we came not to take advantage but to contribute and become a part of the magic. We came here because people here seemed kind and open and happy, and it made US want to be kind and open. So, we will say hello to everyone we see on our morning run. We will signal our roundabout exits. We will support local causes, artists, and businesses. We will play in the mountains and the river and the desert. We will find our way. We will share our joy and kindness as much as we can.

We will thrive.



Last October was our 10 year wedding anniversary. For fun, we loosely follow the traditional anniversary gift list. For example, one year the gift was ‘iron,’ so we got ourselves a waffle iron. The ten year gift is tin, so we decided to get tintype portraits taken. 

Tintypes are made using metal plates painted with light sensitive photo emulsion. The image is developed and fixed right away…a fancy, old fashioned polaroid, if you will. Tintypes are now considered an alternative photography process, but they are actually at the roots of photography. With modern lighting techniques the process is fairly quick and easy, and can be more relaxed than in the past. Each one is unique and the chemistry involved makes striking images.

To be honest, I think I’d like to do my part all over again with a glass or two of wine and a shopping trip…but it really is a raw, honest snapshot of the moment, and I love having a set of unique family portraits. Thank you so much to Kari Orvik for the beautiful photos.

Mansfield Family, 2015 by  Kari Orvik

Mansfield Family, 2015 by Kari Orvik



Two weeks into the new year, how's it going for you? I've been on my own for half of it as my people were off visiting more of our people. I missed them terribly, but was quite excited to have a long moment completely by myself for the first time in ages...a little introvert recharge, if you will. I had great intentions for projects and adventures, some of which I accomplished, but mostly I found myself sitting still, binging on shows and books and forgetting to feed myself or sleep properly. Ah well…guess that’s what I needed?

Truthfully, it usually takes me about a month to transition to a new year. There are the holidays to recover from and mental knots to untie from the previous year so you can daydream about the year to come. But if I'm not careful I can get a bit mopey about it all, especially left alone in a quiet house to listen to my own perfectionistic, regretty bullshit. My approaching birthday gets me going, too. To get me through it this time around, I'm tying knots in dough. I've been a bit obsessed lately with The Great British Baking Show (which due to trademark issues is sadly NOT called The Great British Bake Off here as it is across the pond). It's utterly charming and inspiring, so I decided to put my hands where my brain is. This month I'm practicing pretzels and using terms like 'cling film' and 'bicarb.' I found Baking is something I've dabbled in over the years (I'm told my apple pie is very good...probably excepting that time I made it with Splenda). I’ve been approaching it all in good fun as a true learning experience, without getting frustrated when things don’t go exactly according to plan. It could still be yummy in the end. That’s how baking is, and that’s how life is, and I would do well to remember that.

Steep Ravine

Well, except for forking over the money to register, I've chosen my next running challenge and my first exciting goal for 2016: A Steep Ravine 10K trail run. It's a brutal 3 miles up, so the 3 miles back down can only be delightful. My practice races during my half-marathon training were trail runs and I loved them. I had wanted to do this same course several weeks ago, but I wasn't running consistently and I knew I couldn't be ready in time. At least not to my liking. Lo and behold, here's a repeat event and I think I better do it. What a way to start the new year! I better pay the money and commit. Next? Choose a training program to keep me on target! I may repeat some early weeks of my No BS Run Club schedule since I KNOW that works for me. 

This post first appeared on Running Commentary

The Pint on Kickstarter

I seem to be in an impulse purchase mood lately...but at least it's for fun and useful stuff. Yesterday I spent $60 on fancy ribbon, for example. And the day before that, this Kickstarter campaign for a groovy drinking vessel caught my attention. The Pint is basically a stainless steel, insulated bottle that can open at both ends. The Pint looks to be the first product designed by Stable Goods, and I'm already a fan. If all their stuff is as cool looking, affordable, and functional as The Pint, we're in for a treat! My canteen/cup should arrive in February...I'll report back then! 

The Pint has already far surpassed its Kickstarter fundraising goal, but you have until November 19th to back the project and get your own bottle.

Book Report: A Tale For The Time Being

It's been awhile since I wrote about a book...with a few exceptions, my recent reads were dismissed soon after finishing the last page. That's how it goes sometimes, especially if I'm not giving reading my full attention. On a recent trip I had quiet time to really dive into a story which had been sitting on my bedside table all year. A Tale For The Time Being is a story about a young American girl in Japan who wrote about her life in a journal...the bullying she gets at school, her love for her Buddhist nun great-grandmother, her admiration for her kamikaze pilot uncle, and her fear for her suicidal father. The journal is found in a packet washed up on an island in Canada by a woman who is struggling to write her own story. The book flips back and forth between the girl, Naoki, and the woman, Ruth, as she reads the girl's journal (I love books with multiple points of view!). Ruth, gets really absorbed in the Nao's fate, and shadows of Nao's story start to creep into her life. This book was a page turner and so interesting and unique with the teenage drama, all the mysteries, the bits of philosophy, and even a splash of quantum physics. Highly recommended! 

(I link books to Green Apple Books in San favorite local bookstore...but they don't know me and I get no kickbacks)

a little spark

Exciting news! I have been chosen as a new Correspondent for The Campsite blog! It's an excellent outdoors blog based in Canada, but gathering stories world-wide. I love the site's thoughtful, fun style...and of course the sense of adventure and love for all things outside. Be sure to add it to your outdoor adventure reading list.

So what does this mean? Well, you'll see more of me here (really!), and I'll also be sending you over to The Campsite to read my stories and reviews about once a month. I'm so excited to add my little spark to their fire! Stay tuned!

Three Rules

Earth Wall, Andy Goldsworthy

Earth Wall, Andy Goldsworthy

A year ago I was feeling all tied up in knots in my brain. Well, maybe I still am, but that's beside the point. My mama came for a visit and gave me three life rules that she wisely saw I needed:

  • Don't be so hard on yourself
  • Don't worry so much.
  • Carve out some time for yourself.

Little did I realize that I'd remind myself of these rules weekly, if not more, for the past year. Does that make it a mantra? I've followed #3 pretty well, but the other two are constant challenges. I've added a sub-rule...or maybe it's #4...Take care of yourself (get enough sleep, don't forget to eat lunch, take your vitamins, etc.).  That one is a challenge, too. I notice when I don't follow the rules I get irritable, anxious, depressed...all the bad feels. Being a grown-up is hard. 

I know I'm not the only woman/mama/human who feels that way. Do you have a simple list of life rules? 

Running Commentary

At the beginning of March I wrote THIS post about my false start with running. Well, I was a good girl and I did my PT and started feeling stronger, but some of the exercises caused me extra knee pain, and it all began to feel like a chore. So, I switched to a regimen of yoga+hiking+cycling and felt happy and athletic again. My knee was not so grumpy. I felt like I wanted to set a big fitness goal and get involved with some sort of group training or coaching. Originally I thought about a triathlon since I am having so much fun riding my bike, but then I decided to keep it simple. I would start with just running, make sure my knee was on board, and get reacquainted with racing. Maybe a little 5K or two. That was the vague idea in March, and now that my injuries were on the mend, I could stick to the plan...

Then I read about The No BS Run Club.

I always sort of blew off the idea of a half marathon because it seems soooo long. I wasn't sure I could do it, or that I wanted to do it, or that I should do it. I didn't even consider it until a few of my people started running them. And then it became something that I shouldn't do because everyone else was doing it. But something about that No BS Run Club hit me in the heart at just the right time. 

So I signed up, and it's going so well. I'm running a 5K next weekend. I'm running my first half marathon in July. I want all the running clothes and all the running everything. I want to be a runner. I AM a runner. 

If you're into running and you want to keep up with MY running thoughts and adventures, you can subscribe to my new newsletter HERE or over there in the sidebar --> 

Hike: Purisima Creek

We try to do a family hike every Sunday, and we most often find ourselves north of San Francisco. Today...we were too tired. We went out for breakfast sandwiches instead. But last Sunday we mixed it up and had one of our best hikes in a while. We headed south to Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve


Purisima Creek is just south of Half Moon Bay, California and can be accessed from off Highway 1 or from Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard). We chose the smaller, western access point up Purisima Creek Road, which allowed us to stop off in Half Moon Bay for trail food and a quick side adventure. The drive up Purisima Creek Road is a lovely roll through horse ranches and farms...and while the parking lot at the end of the road is tiny, there's ample room on the side of the quiet road. 

Purisima Creek seemed like a great area for hiking and getting a dose of nature with kids of all ages, even just by doing short, simple out-and-back walks along the creek. We saw several other families there throughout the day. Many of the trails are wide, and the creek itself is great for picnicking and tossing rocks. Fast mountain bikes and poison oak are the main hazards. 

You can view a trail map HERE. Our route was Harkins Ridge Trail - Craig Britton Trail - Purisima Creek Trail, which came out to about 7 miles. Harkins Ridge Trail is the steeper part of this loop and we decided to tackle it first. 


The views were full of forest, hills, and even a peek of the ocean. We saw lizards & butterflies, and heard many birds. There were flowers blooming here and there, including trillium. We'll definitely be trying some more loops in this area. Perhaps tomorrow.


We are lucky to have a kid who loves to be outside and who can sleep easily in a carrier on the trail. It means we can usually plan our hike to incorporate a nap and get more mileage. After a picnic down by the creek our girl slept in a chest carrier most of the way up Harkins Ridge. She's quite petite still at 2.5 years, but is nearly too big for her carriers now. Our kid is getting pretty good at hiking on her own, though, too...she more or less ran down most of Purisima Creek Trail...once we got past the really oaky bits and let her down.

Have you tried a new trail lately or otherwise mixed up your routine?

Woah, PeeWee!


Nothing like a little girl's first pony ride! On our way to our Sunday hike we passed Lemos Farm outside of Half Moon Bay. Almost anytime we catch a glimpse of a horse, our little one says she wants to seeing little ponies by the highway, we decided to u-turn and have a some quick fun. She said she was all done after only a few minutes...but talked about it all day and asked to ride PeeWee again later, so I say that was $8 well spent. 

Sweet Monday

Daylight Savings seems to be hitting us a bit hard this spring...we couldn't quite make it out for our usually Sunday hike. But then we stumbled into a Monday without anything on our schedules. We celebrated with a leisurely hike thru Tennessee Valley for a picnic and some beach exploration. Weekday hikes are always just a little bit sweeter, don't you think? 

Kicking Myself


I got new "kicks"! Get it? Kicking myself? Groan. Long story short, I have some minimalist trail runners that I love wearing..they are light and I feel quick in them. But I convinced myself they were making a knee problem worse. The more likely truth is that I have been rather complacent about some physical therapy exercises I was given back in November to combat my knee problem...patellofemoral syndrome, a vague but promising diagnosis. But a diagnosis doesn't fix it, especially when you don't follow instructions. For that, I really am kicking myself.

Long, long ago, when I was a consistent runner (which I'm aiming to be again...I think), I preferred trail runners because they were a little more rugged and seemed to protect me from rolling my ankle so often. I picked up these Montrail FluidFlex II because they were on sale, cool looking, and had good reviews. I thought they'd solve all my problems and my months of not doing the proper knee work would be irrelevant. So, of course, on my first time out with these, I did a major ankle roll while trying to fight through the worst, sharp knee pain. It wasn't an EPIC fail, but it was disappointing and frustrating. Problems decidedly not solved, with no one to blame but myself. So, it's ice packs, stretches, and strengthening for me...EVERY NIGHT. I think I'll reward myself with a run next week. In the meantime, walking, hiking, and biking, stiff ankle and achey knee be damned.

Anything you're kicking yourself for this week?

Sugru it!


Have you guys heard of Sugru? I first saw it at Maker Faire several years ago and FINALLY bought some to play with because I had a sad iPhone charger in need of repair. The wires were fraying and detaching from each end of the cord. All my effort to cover the mess with white electrical tape did was make it a sticky, dirty mess 

Sugru is basically a moldable silicon-based glue. It comes in lovely colors that you can mix if desired. You knead the Sugru and shape it for whatever task (fix/attach/create) and then let it cure for 24 hours. When it dries it's smooth, soft, and flexible. It's kind of magic. I don't have to be delicate with my charger anymore. I'm able to plug it in right side up even in the dark, and I made a little handle for unplugging it.


I have more packs and am contemplating my next move. It feels like one of those things I will soon wonder how I lived without. If you poke around the Sugru website you can see truly amazing projects other people have completed, from simple repairs like mine to ingenious modifications of gadgets, to improving & customizing outdoor gear, to making art. Scott is going to use some to modify his hiking shoes to help his gaiters stay attached. 

Sugru did not sponsor this post or send me any freebies...but they DO have great, fast, friendly customer service. I'm honestly impressed with the product and the company.

Do YOU have any DIY projects that need extra groovy ingredients?