Do you sit down for family dinners?

One of my favorite times of the day is when our family sits down for dinner.  My daughter sets the table with napkins and placemats I've made from my favorite fabrics plus 3 forks for dad, a tiny tea cup for mom, plates, and viola!

We light a candle and say the same blessing I have been saying since I was in kindergarten:

"Earth who gives to us this food,

Sun that makes it ripe and good,

Dear earth, dear sun, by you we live,

Our loving thanks to you we give"

Sharing food, talking, silence, laughter.  The family table is a metaphor for a complex, sweet, and complicated life.  Sometimes we bubble over with things to share, other times we are so distracted by our own thoughts, we say almost nothing.  Still other times, these shared times at the table lead to the big questions, like "How did I get into your belly?"

I had a family dinner ritual in my own family growing up and I looked forward to the six of us gathering around the table every night.  It was a little square table, and my sister and I shared one side, and my brothers were on the other, with my dad and my step mom at the ends. The table was full of plates, dishes, glasses of milk, and delicious food.  The table was small but it felt cozy and abundant.

They were loud times, laughing times, and I remember them being the times when important things got asked in my childhood too, like "Why do people wear crosses? (forgive my pagan parents) and what do they mean?"

What rituals do you have around the family dinner?

Amelie is born...

We couldn't be more thrilled to have a new Outlook family member...our tiny boutique, Amelie,  in the historic Inn is finally OPEN!

Here's a preview of some of the special treats in store for you.


The beautiful designs of Stephanie Housley of Coral and Tusk and a staple of the shop.  From charming stuffed animals (you'll want to invent a child to buy these for, but don't worry, everyone here wants one for themself), framed embroidery like the deer above, and beautiful canvas baskets, Stephanie's designs have been featured on Martha Stewart Living


Moss globe necklace by Heron and Lamb from Chicago.  Heron and Lamb represents original, feminine designs Inspired by the preservation of all things rustic and natural.  Each piece is infused with re-purposed materials and collected elements from nature. Minimalist and understated, the use of dried flowers, mosses, and vintage lace evoke a feeling of nostalgia and delicacy while maintaining a strong sense of preservation.  I love the feel of these pieces!

Have you smelled these candles?  Volupsa Candles made by husband and wife team in Santa Barbara, full of heady fragrances like Mokara, a blend of mokara orchids, white lily and spring moss, and Baltic Amber (shown above) with amber resin, vanilla orchid, and sandlewood, they will leave your special spaces smelling step into Amelie and you'll smell what I mean.

I can't wait for you to see what I've chosen!




Rare Running Opportunity - Leave No Trace Race on Turtleback

On April 21, at 10 a.m., The Funhouse Commons Youth and Community Center will present a 15k (nine-mile) trail & road run on and around the Turtleback Mountain Preserve on Orcas Island.

The first organized run on Turtleback, the fundraising event will be called the "Leave No Trace Race" underscoring the importance of protecting the Preserve, and keeping the impact on the trails to a minimum. The race will also be strictly limited to just 60 runners.

A truly challenging and beautiful nine mile run, the course features every type of running terrain. It begins at the south trailhead, with a difficult hill climb that is rewarded with incredible views. From there the course switches to a beautiful forested single track. The trail connects back to the dirt fire-service road and proceeds over the mountain, to the North trailhead, near the old school house on Crow Valley Road. The rest of the race is on the roads, from Crow Valley to Deer Harbor road along the water's edge, and back to the start.

To sign up click the link below, or visit the Funhouse Commons website, or click here.

Second Annual Orcas Island Shakespeare Festival March 21, 22, 23

Here's a repost of the information about Orcas Island's own Shakespeare Festival from the Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce.  There will be a special appearance by Shakespeare himself, along with jugglers, dancers and performers of all ages, at the New Leaf Cafe on Saturday, May 22 at 1:15.  Come by for a late breakfast and enjoy the show!

You are invited to come enjoy our Shakespeare Festival on Orcas Island, featuring costumed performers, an Eastsound Parade, street theater, and a performance of ‘Julius Caesar’ by The Seattle Shakespeare Company. Clear your schedule for March 21, 22 and 23, 2013.

The Stage on the Green, located in the heart of the island, will be home to numerous festival activities all day Saturday, March 23, including stage performances and music of the period. That evening, a performance of Julius Caesar will be presented at the island’s version of “The Globe” – the 200-seat Orcas Center, the community’s performing arts facility.

If you have any questions, please email or call (360-376-2273) the Chamber of Commerce

Festival Event Schedule

Thursday, March 21

  • Dinner at Sazio di Notte with the Seattle Shakespeare Company. Chef Bill Patterson has created a meal fit for The Bard himself! See the Menu. 6 pm – 9:30 pm. $125 per person (wine included). Reservations made at Sazio (360-376-6394), The Office Cupboard (360-376-2378), or at the Chamber of Commerce (360-376-2273).

Friday, March 22

  • ‘Combat’ acting class for students. 10 am at Orcas Center. Seattle Shakespeare Company provides instruction to local high school students on ‘combat’ techniques for the stage.
  • ‘Julius Caesar’ performance for local students. 1 pm at Orcas Center. Seattle Shakespeare Company in performance.
  • ‘Combat’ acting class for adults. 4 pm at Outlook Inn’s Victorian Room. A chance to learn how to theatrically take and give a hit! Seattle Shakespeare Company. Cost: $30. Class size: 30. Reservations made through the Chamber of Commerce (376-2273).

Saturday, March 23:  

All-day Shakespeare Festival on Orcas Island, featuring street performances, a parade, farmers market & much more!

  • 11 am: Parade through Eastsound (North Beach Road – Rose Street – Prune Alley – A Street) ending on the Village Green). Orcas Island’s William Shakespeare will be feted as he arrives
  • Vendors on Village Green (11 am – 4 pm)
  • ‘Julius Caesar’ performance at Orcas Center
  • 7 pm: Wine reception at Orcas Center for ticket holders
  • 8 pm: Performance by Seattle Shakespeare Company
2nd Annual Orcas Island Shakespeare Festival <p> <i>Julius Caesar</i>‘Julius Caesar’ Performance at Orcas Center

Tickets for the March 23 performance of ‘Julius Caesar’ are on sale now, and are available through the Orcas Center Box Office (360-376-2281) or its website. Tickets are also available at the Brown Paper Tickets website.

Shakespeare’s great political thriller portrays the life-and-death struggle for power in Rome. Envious of the charismatic Caesar and his ambitions, a faction of politicians plot his assassination. After Caesar is killed, chaos consumes Rome. Julius Caesar investigates the turbulent nature of power and the ethics of those who wield it.

Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands, is famous for its natural beauty, and is often referred to as the “Gem of the San Juans.”

“The Chamber of Commerce is working with our business community to take part in the fun,” said Orcas Island Chamber Board President Michell Marshall. “Restaurants and shops will feature ‘Shakespearean Specials’ that weekend, transforming the island into a Salish Sea version of Stratford-upon-Avon. With an amazing variety of talented local artists, Orcas has earned the reputation as an ‘Island for the Arts,’ and this year’s Shakespeare Festival will only add to that reputation. And it doesn’t hurt we have our own William Shakespeare for the event,” Marshall said.

She's a grand old lady

I always think of the Inn as a grand lady.  But it wasn't always like that.  She has a wild past, full of color and controversy.

She was an outcast.  They called her a commune, full of freaks

That's right.  It wasn't always the Outlook Inn, full of friendly people, although the freaks were never accused of being unfriendly, just weird.  In 1968 when the Inn was purchased for a song and a prayer, the buyer was the renowned mystic, Louis Gittner, and the Outlook Inn was the spiritual center he created to live and share his teachings.  It was the 60's, but Orcas Island was a rural island flush with loggers, farmers and folks who had never heard of a chakra, crystal therapy or Buddha (I know it's hard to  imagine but follow me here). 

People here lived a simple, country life, revolving like many small communities around church and tradition.  The Outlook Inn was about to shake things up.  In looking through old newspaper clippings from 1969 I came across a quote in the local paper by the pastor of a local church.

"God lives on this side of the street and the devil lives over there". 

This new spiritual community at the Outlook Inn was not welcomed.  Tourists had not yet discovered the Emerald Isle, but the spiritual seekers had and they were putting down roots.  There was a school, admittedly having only 3 students.  There was a chapel, with regular Sunday services and daily meditation for the entire staff.  There was a community of people.  The Inn sat on a log foundation, didn't have indoor plumbing, kept a few goats and chickens in the back yard.  Everybody worked for free "in service of humankind".  To support the community food was served, at owners whim, in the little water view dining room.  Menus appeared on pieces of driftwood.  Louis gave readings, sold books, and traveled the country as a speaker, in places where all there was were chakras.

Despite the controversy, the power of the place, this view down the bay, could not be denied.  It was a powerful place.  For people to come who needed help.  Who sought peace.  Who imagined a different world. 

And that hasn't changed today.  I'm excited to share a modern day teacher with you and the opportunity to study with him at the Outlook Inn, May 17-19, 2013.  As the Lead Educator of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, davidji apprenticed under Deepak Chopra for nearly a decade learning and ultimately teaching the profound timeless wisdom of meditation, Ayurveda, emotional healing, and conscious choice making.

With more than 200 guided meditations to his credit and more than 100,000 students around the world, davidji has made the ancient science of meditation practical, easy, fun, and rewarding.  (More information on this event here).

Gone is the controversy.

Times sure have changed.  Alternative spiritual practices like meditation have become mainstream, there benefits and effects scientifically validated.  Orcas Island has changed too.  Astronauts, hippies, farmers and mystics live in peace.  The outcast?  She grew up.  The Outlook Inn is a grand lady with crystals tucked in her garden, truffle oil in the larder, and fine sheets on the bed.  She's loved and respected by her community.  But she's still the same girl at heart.  A seeker imagining a better world.

How about you?  Are you a seeker?  Are you looking for peace?  This event is for you.

Wishing you a wild, beautiful day, celebrating your own colorful history!


sara signature.jpg

A Completely Free No-Fail Valentine's Day Gift

I used to regularly pout on major romantic holidays.  And I don't mean sexy little pout, I mean you're a big baby pout.   I'd find myself subconsciously digesting all the messaging out there about what love was supposed to look like and always, always, coming up short.  And it wasn't Adam's fault.  He presented the flowers, jewelry, trips, decadent meals, you name it, it was given.  But let's face it, romance can be hard. Our expectations get distorted and it's never truer than on Valentine's Day. 

We are bombarded by messages, ideas, tips (No-Fail Gift Ideas),  and over the top plans to profess our love.  We're supposed to wow.  To excite.  And don't get me wrong, I am all for it.  But if the diamond package, complete with real diamonds, helicopter transport, and $20,000 price tag, aren't for you, let me tell you a simple, fail proof way to show your love.  It will make any of the traditional gifts you might give that much more meaningful too.

It's a simple gift: 24 hours with you.

Now these are no ordinary 24 hours.  We are busy people, with jobs, kids, deadlines,  multiple phones ringing, text messages, and emails flying.  In any single day I try to accomplish hundreds of different communications and tasks.

This is no ordinary day and this is no ordinary you. 

You are trying to get a lot done in your day to day life.   You're full of passion, purpose, and a to do list a mile long.  You have people in your life that mean the world to you that sometimes want your attention when you need to be doing something else.  Our big dreams don't create themselves, they require lots of action.  But our husbands, wives, and children make those actions meaningful.  Ordinary you is juggling carpool, meetings, phone calls, cars that need tune-ups, groceries that need buying and cooking, laundry, pets, bosses that want it now, and snacks for your kids soccer team.  I could add more but I feel a panic attack coming on.  Which is why I want to give and get this fail proof gift.

24 hours with you.

I'm talking about 24 hours without phones, without work, without kids, without twitter, facebook, email, cell phones, land lines, or surfing of any kind that doesn't involve actual water.  And no housework or yard work either.  If it has the potentail of taking you away from your loved one, in body or spirit, add it to the list of what you're not going to do.

It's that simple.  And hard.  I know how hard it is because each week I do this with my family.  From 12:00 pm on Saturday to 12:00 pm on Sunday, we disconnect from the world and reconnect with each other.  I'm amazed at how resistent I can be to this way of being.  At 11:45 on Sunday I start staring at the dishes that have piled up and my hands are itching to do something.  But the rewards have been worth the discomfort.  I feel a change in my family and I felt it on the first day.  My daughter has a new sense of her meaning in our family.  When I say no to playdates or activities I can see her chest puff up with pride, she is important enough to set aside this time for just us.  And my husband?  He's happy too.  We both feel a profound sense of commitment and meaning by the decision to spend 24 hours together, focused on connection.

So what are you going to do during that 24 hours? Here are some ideas:

  • Get a massage.
  • Take a bath together. 
  • Read out loud to each other from your favorite book of poetry or the Funny Times.
  • Go for a long meandering walk together, the kind you might have taken before obligations made your walks exercise squeezed between meetings and appointments. 
  • Choose a recipe not found in "Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less" and spend the day in the kitchen creating a feast (but only if this feels like play and not work). 
  • Have a long drawn out brunch where you read the paper, do the crossword puzzle, and have a mimosa.
  • Pack a picnic and head into the wild.

I'm not saying you need to do this every week (although it would be awesome if you could) but give it a try on a special day with someone special.  Without fail, if you are present and committed to giving 24 hours of your precious time to a loved one, they will feel very, very loved.  And that is the gift that we are all yearning for.



P.S.  It would be completely silly of me not to mention how easy this is to do on Orcas Island!

T-shirts, meditation and birthday cake

Do you remember what you wished for on your 6th birthday?  16th?  34th?  I do. 

Bicycle.  Boyfriend.  Nothing.  Wait, what?  Nothing? 

Yes, you read that right: nothing.  I read a little book full of pearly wisdom called the Joy Diet by Martha Beck last September, and when my birthday came around I dedicated myself to a 15 minute a day practice of "nothing". 

Beck descibes doing "nothing" as "vacating your life" for a period of time every day.  Not vacating like eating a bag of potato chips while watching reality t.v., she means vacating the worries, the highs and lows, and all the thoughts about the worries, highs and lows.  For me it meant touching the place inside where everything was okay.  Period.  With everything.  Things at work became easier, decisions literally made themselves (in a good way), and I felt a lot better.  The diet worked; joy was happening.

But eventually I got bored doing "nothing".   Which means I actually stopped doing "nothing".

I'd sit down for nothing and start to think of something. And then something else. And then I'd be off on a wild goose chase of how I needed to buy shampoo but was the salon open today and would I have time before my meeting, and it couldn't be the kind that made my curls sag and what about the comb I was using, could that be making the curls less than perky and speaking of sagging, I need to get to the gym, but I haven't been in so long...and on and on it goes. Sound familiar?

I needed help and like any busy, savvy young lady miles from a new age bookstore, I turned to iTunes where I found the Chopra Center's David Ji teaching basic meditation via podcast.  Awesome.  I spent every morning with his voice piped into my ears for two solid months.  And his teachings became an anchor in my daily life.

So what does this have to do with birthday wishes? It's my birthday today and I'm wishing for the confidence to bring a big dream into reality. That dream involves my 15 minutes a day of nothing and David Ji and a thirst that so many of us feel for more meaning in the world. 

Our vision is to create a Center for spiritual seekers and teachers to experience a deeper sense of meaning and connection in the world.  While I wish for the confidence to bring this dream into reality (including the construction of a breakthtaking waterfront event center on the Inn's property), I am also honored to tell you about a live event, May 17-20, 2013, at the Outlook Inn featuring spiritual teachers David Ji, Lead Educator at the Chopra Center, Claudette Bouchard, the "nanny of the soul", and Geoff Fitch, Founder and CEO of Pacific Integral. 

This is exactly the type of event that you will be seeing more of at the Outlook Inn- one that fosters meaningful conversations, increased skills and confidence to navigate an ever more complex and beautiful world, and access to world renowned teachers, all in an intimate, beautiful, natural setting.

Happy Birthday to me.  I am so excited to share this opportunity with you to come and learn with these teachers right here on Orcas Island.

For more information please contact  This event is produced independantly from the hotel and all booking and information are available from Sunada Spiritual Productions website.

Does it look like I made them be in these pictures? You're right, I did. That's Jon Kobayashi our General Manager, and the fantastic Selena Gerace, our Front Desk Manager. Thank you botNow what about those t-shirts?  It's too close to Christmas and too exciting not to share.  Artist Jessica Lynch of Slow Loris on neighboring Guemes Island drew an iconic image of the Outlook Inn to grace the first printing of a Outlook Inn t-shirt in 15 years (that's kind of pathetic, I know) and now they are available to make you look 20 pounds lighter, 5 years younger, and 75% smarter.  Or at least stylishly smug because you're wearing a very attractive t-shirt.

You can order one or many by calling the front desk at (360) 376-2200.  We have mens sizes S-XL $18, kids S-XL $15, and women's S-XL $18.  The women's T has a feminine scooped neckline which makes even me (who generally doesn't wear t-shirts) love these shirts.  I look great doing "nothing" in them.

So eat some birthday cake, do some "nothing", and make a wish of your own.


5 Creative Acts to Recharge on Vacation (or in life)

I lost my mojo.  Too tired, too busy.  Too many emails to answer, phone calls to make, meals to cook and honestly an episode of "Downton Abbey" is just easier than getting out my sewing machine and fabric and playing in the realm of my creativity.

If you've been busy with your job and your family and, and, and...then you might be saying "But what can I do?"  These are five of my favorite ways to reconnect to the well of energy and fun inside myself.

  1. Knitting...Grandmas do it, hipsters do it, your can do it at the beach, on the ferry, in the car.  It provides a fantastic outlet for those "gotta do something productive" hands.  You might not even realize you are relaxing and creating something beautiful (or odd as is sometimes the case).  There isn't a knitting shop on the island but there are a few on your way from I-5 if you are driving to catch the Anacortes Ferry.  WildFibers is one of my favorites in Mount Vernon (located right off I-5 at exit 226) for finding luxurious yarns and really cute patterns.  Ana-Cross Stitch in Anacortes is another favorite and is a great place to spend some if you arrive with plenty of time to spare before your ferry.  If you are new to knitting, this website it a great resource to learn.
  2. Sketch the life you dream...Bring along a sketchbook or just grab a handful of paper from your printer before you leave the office.  I took an afternoon workshop with Patti Dobrowolski and rediscovered my childhood love of sketching.  Patti teaches a process using very rudimentary drawing skills that we all have to "draw our future" and tap into our creative potential.  Check out her TED talk and pick up a copy of her book for "Drawing Solutions" for simple instructions to add some strategic soul planning into your creativie expression. 
  3. Buy a box of thank you card...and start writing.  Creative you might ask?  Why yes it is.  Saying "Thank you" can unlease a well of energy and joy.  The creative part is thinking of the numerous ways that people close to you and not so close to you have had a postiive impact on you.  Write a thank you card to your mom or dentist.  Grandmas, husbands, wives and children also love to get thank you cards.
  4. Sing...and I do mean just sing. Sing along to your favorite song, sing in the bathtub, sing alone and with friends.  My husband Adam is a musician and he has been meeting weekly with a group of friends to sing together.  A beautiful project was born out of this creative space and you can read more about that here.
  5. Dance...You don't need anything but yourself but it can get even juicier to dance with a friend or lover.  Put on your favorite slow oldie or a current teen pop favorite and let yourself go.

Creative expression can get lost in the hustle of familly, work and the many obligations we think we need to give our precious time and energy to.  And sometimes it seems like that creative place is so far away that even if we had the time, we're terrified what we would do with it.

The good news is that creativity never goes away.  Creativity may get blocked like a cosmic telemerketer hearing a busy signal on your phone but it'll just keep calling and you can pick up any time.  Vacation is one of the best times to dive into the the relaxed, excited, dare I say juicy arena of creativity.

So be brave and bold.  Turn off Downton Abbey (for now).  We're like Pacific Northwest lilies growing in Moran State Park.  Creativity is our sunshine -  small splashes, dappled arcs and big doses in the summer make us beautiful year round.

How will you be creative on your vacation or in life?  I'm off to get my mojo back sewing some new school clothes for my daughter...hopefully she'll want to wear them!

With love,

What's Up with August and Her Hot Sister September 1st

August on Orcas Island lasts a full 90 days, and it's a good thing because there is a lot to do.  Rooms are hard to find (if you haven't already booked, starting planning NOW), restaurants are full of giddy vacation energy and lots of local food (our farms really start humming this month), and the sun...oh the sun!  I think this is the best weather we've had since 2005 - in short: the weather is fantastic!  As if that wasn't enough, August has some incredible local events that are seriously trip worthy.

August 9 - 25, 2012  The Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival is kind of a big deal.  Really.  A. Big. Deal.  I met violinist Chee-Yun at a dinner party last summer and was charmed by her beauty and her grace.  I heard a rumor that her violin is on loan to her from Korea (like the country) and is valued at $14,000.  I cried when I saw her play it.  But it wasn't the violin.  She captivated the audience with her talent and skill.  She is just one of the breathtaking performers at the yearly festival.  If you can get tickets, I recommend you do, and while you're at, buy some tissue.  You'll need them if you see Chee-Yun.

August 10, 2012  The Library Fair has been completely cluttering my bedside table with books for the last 31 years of my life.  Every summer this August event draws all the book lovers out of their hammocks and easy chairs to buy more books. The Friends of the Library book sale is a feast of fiction, non-fiction, do-it-yourself, improve yourself, and poetry.  Grab a box and begin your wandering under the sun at the Eastsound Green, then take a break to get the most insanely delicious Pulled Pork Sanwich from T.J.'s Tacos and BBQ (just one of many food booths at the fair).  You will need sustance for sustained browsing.

August 17-19, 2012   Orcas Island Artists Studio Tour is in it's toddlerhood as far as events go on the island, but artists and Orcas are like apple and pie.  We're a fountain of creativity.  This is an opportunity to get inside the creative spaces and talk with the artists in their element.  There is a preview of the show at the Orcas Center throughout August to see examples of participating artists' work.

September 1, 2012   Galaxy of Burlesque Revue  The Atomic Bombshells are a tantalizing professional burlesque company from Seattle that tours internationally, tastefully taking off clothing and pushing the boundaries of traditional entertainment.  They are sexy, ironic and very, very funny.  Wrap up the hot month of August with this sizzling performance.  Tickets are $26 and sold at the front desk of the Inn so ask to have a couple added to your room when you book your stay.  A note to the faint of heart: there is nudity and some cross dressing.  Read more about the event here.

I will certainly be enjoying ALL of these fantastic events this August and I hope to see you there!


Is a spectacular location enough for you?

I could have said something...but I didn't.  I just didn't feel like it would work with the people I was talking to.

Has this ever happened to you?  You're on vacation or out at a restaurant, and something goes wrong and you don't mention it to your server or the front desk or the clerk because you can tell that you're only going to feel worse, not better, after the complaint?

I just got back from three days on the Olympic Peninsula with my family and our new puppy, Lucky Darshan Sugar-cube (it was difficult to decide on his name).  We stayed right on the beach in a rustic cabin, very simple accommodations, perfect for disconnecting from our own busy tourist season.

While the accommodations were simple, the beach was what we came for.  It's gorgeous.  The perfect lay-around with the family, roast marshmellows on a fire, chase waves, and frolic kind of beach.

But after poor service from the front desk and a lousy experience with the only restaurant in 20 miles,  I began to question whether I would come back or not - even though this is the only hotel on this beach.

I realized that a spectacular location is not enough, I want to be treated like a friend.

My friends tell me when I have spinach in my teeth and lipstick on my chin (how'd that get there?).  And they wouldn't send me to a restaurant they wouldn't enjoy themselves or brush off my questions about charges to my credit card.

I thought of all the first-time travelers to our island location, who don't know where to eat, what to do, or whether they are going to be taken care of like a friend. 

The positive take-away (cause that's the kind of lady I am) was realizing again what an impact a simple gesture of true caring can have on another human being.

The team at the Inn want to be your friend.  With that in mind, here are a couple of my local favorites, just to get you started when you arrive on Orcas Island.  I've included things that I personally enjoy and would happily recommend to my best friends.

I don't mention too much about the New Leaf Cafe, I'll let you read other peoples unbiased reviews about that (but you probably can guess my favorite restaurant). 

  Sara's Local Picks

Great Coffee  This is basically just a public service announcement about the quality of coffee on Orcas Island.  It's good and strong. My current favorite is located in Darvill's Bookstore and serves Batdorf and Bronson Coffee, and I name this one specifically only because it satisfies two of my obsessions - coffee and books.  Enzo's (Caffe D'Arte), Teezers (Starbucks), Straight Shots (Pegasus), and Kathryn Taylor Chocolates (Stumptown) all have exceptional coffee as well.  Kathryn Taylor Chocolates, like Darvill's, delivers the double whammy of coffee and chocolate!  If you love a good mocha, it doesn't get much better than this.

Breakfast  Finding a place to eat breakfast when you wake up in the morning (especially if you've arrived late and aren't oriented to where you are) is very important.  I personally cannot stop eating the incredible breakfast at the New Leaf, but I want to give you other options.  When I don't want to be "at work" for breakfast, I love to eat at Mia's, right around the corner from the Inn.  She has a simple menu and a cozy space.  If pastries are your thing (and whose aren't they?) try the Pecan Cinnamon Role at the Wild Flour Bakery, just an easy stroll out our front door.

Hike  I love the 2 mile hike up Turtleback Mountain to Ship's Peak.  The trail is steep, but the view at the top is breathtaking.  In a tremendous outpouring of community generosity and fundraising, this 1500 acre island parcel was saved from development in 2006 when it was purchased by the San Juan Preservation Trust and the Trust For Public Land for a whopping $17 million.  Much of this was raised within the community, from dollars donated by those with little to spare.  And it's for good reason that we all fought so hard.  This is an island treasure not to be missed.  Download a map with directions here.

Shopping  Do not miss Tres Fabu.  This is not what you expect from a little island dress shop.  Nikki Ames, the owner, and her amazing shop girls will take incredible care of you and the uniquely curated, high quality clothing, jewelry, shoes and handbags will have you reaching for your wallet and leaving with at least one serious find.  They also have home accessories in the screened-in porch off the shop.   A note to those with a weak will or a passion for fashion, if you don't plan on spending on clothing or jewelry during your trip, avoid this stop.

Whale Watching  Dan and Denise Wilk of Orcas Island Eclipse Charters have been boating, sailing and loving the wildlife in the San Juan Islands for over 25 years.  Somewhere I have a picture of Denise holding my hand on a dock in Deer Harbor when I was two years old, she's like family and she treats the people we send her like family too.  Nepotism aside (wink, wink) her business stands on its own as a great whale watching and wildlife cruise.  The 56' Orcas Express has great indoor and outdoor viewing, stabilizers in case you have a sensitive tummy, like I do, and their experienced naturalists to educate you about the wildlife.

These are just a few recommendations to get you started, and whether you stay with us or not, we are here to provide you with real human apathy-busting hospitality, so stop by and get one of our Eastsound Food Maps (with a complete list of dining options) or just to say "Hello".

Our passion is sharing this stuff with visitors to Orcas Island.  Good restaurants and the best hikes, and we want to hear what you need during your stay.



P.S. If you have a favorite spot on the island, share ONE in the comments below.

P.P.S. More activities and informationcan be found by clicking here.


Not Your Grandma's Sherry + Weekend Wine Tour of Spain with Gonzalez Byass

We're hot on the tail of our first Outlook University wine weekend with Willamette Valley producers Adelsheim, Coeur de Terre, and Raptor Ridge and we are excited to bring you the next unique experience.  We're traveling across the globe to what wine experts call "a rising star" of the wine world, Spain.  Executive Chef Steve Debaste is creating a pairing menu of tapas that reflect Spanish roots and New Leaf sensibilities.

On the wine side we are lucky to host Felipe Gonzalez-Gordon Terry, who represents the fifth generation of Spains most venerated wine family.  In keeping with the mission of Outlook University to bring together dynamic learning around food, wine, creativity and wellness, we've found Spanish wine royalty to guide you through the incredible breadth, history, and quality of Spanish wine.  Join us!
Felipe's family's business, Gonzalez-Byass, has grown from its humble beginnings in 1835 to become one of Spain's most revered and respected wine  companies. In Spain, Gonzalez-Byass not only represents wine, but the very essence of Spanish culture with some of the most recognizable and significant Spanish wines ever  produced - many of which will be available to taste during the weekend with Felipe.

What makes Gonzalez-Byass so unique is the breadth of wines that they offer.  Spain has many wine regions and Gonzalez-Byass seems to have a foot hold in almost all of them.  Over the weekend we will explore the family's estates that cover five different regions.  Does anyone else feel like visiting Spain?

  • The Penedes region is located an hour south of Barcelona.  The influence of the sun and the Mediterranean sea make the Penedès a privileged territory for wine making.  We will be tasting two Cavas from Vilarnau. 
  •  Somontano is the wine region that lies in teh shadow of the Pyrenees Mountain range boarding France.  We will be tasting three wines from Vinas del Vero during our tour to learn about this distinct place. 
  •  Rioja, the classic Spanish wine region north of Madrid, is home to Bodegas Beronia.  Rioja wines bear distinct aging requirements producing unique characteristics and we will have the opportunity to taste and learn about including a Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza. 
  • Finca Constancia in Madrid is one of the newest estates developed by the family.  We will taste two wines from this winery.  
  • Jerez in southern Spain is where Gonzalez Byass began with it's sherry production.  It's rich history includes the inspiration for the archetectue of the Eifel Tower and hosting kings, queens, and dignitaries in it's grand bodega...not to mention helping the world to rediscover the delight of bone dry sherry with Tio Pepe.  

Taste of Spain Wine Pairing Dinner:
Saturday, April 21, Reception at 5:30, Dinner at 6:00  $120 per person *tax & gratuity included 
Nibble and nosh your way through five courses of Spanish tapas and award winning Spanish wines.  Family style seating and a relaxed convival atmosphere make our wine tastings a fun way for visitors to get to know the locals and locals to mix with friends new and old.

** Space for both events are extremely limited and prepayment is required to reserve space in the seminar and dinner.    
Spanish Wine and "Not Your Grandma's Sherry" Seminar:
Friday, April 20, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm, $30 per person
Join us for a wine tasting featuring 12 unique wines and sherries with Felipe Gonzalez-Gordon.  This is a unique opportunity to learn about Spanish wine and sherry from a man whose family is steeped in the tradition.  The seminar will include 3 flights of 4 wines ranging from a bubbly Cava, Spanish whites and reds, and the sexiest sherries you've ever tasted.  These are Felipe's grandma's sherries, and she was drinking the finest of her time.  Believe me, you will be delighted and surprised by this rare treat.
 **For reservations or more information call the Inn at 1-888-OUTLOOK or 360-376-2200.  Special room pricing is available for attendees.



Outlook U...School never sounded so good

Willamette Valley Pinot Camp - Saturday, March 10, 2012
Three World Class Wineries in one room, just for you!

Pre-payment is required for the seminar and dinner to confirm your reservation.  Our capacity for both events is extremely limited. 


Wine Seminar:

Saturday 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm, $30 per person plus tax
Join us for a wine tasting featuring 12 Willamette Valley wines and an exclusive opportunity to learn about the wine making and land that have made Willamette Valley wines so well respected.  Presenters include Adelsheim Vineyard Winemaker Dave Paige, Owners and Winemaker of Raptor Ridge Annie and Scott Schull, and  Coeur de Terre Vineyard Owners and Winemakers Scott and Lisa Neal. 


Wine Pairing Dinner:
Saturday at 6:30 pm, $120 per person *tax & gratuity included 
Sumptuous five course wine pairing dinner with all three wineries and the culinary talent of New Leaf Executive Chef Steve Debaste and Special Event Ch ef Madden Surbaugh.


Retail Sales of wines from the weekend at exclusive pricing will be available and will want a tasty reminder of this fantastic event!

Room Specials
Book the seminar and dinner and receive some seriously "tipsy" pricing on your stay at the Inn:
  • Luxury Bay View Suites  $129 per night (regular rate $199)
  • East Wing Standard  $89 per night (regular rate $119) 
  • Historic Main Building $69 per night  (regular rate $89) 
Raise your glass, school has never looked so good!
Three world class wineries, one fantastic day,  with unbelievable room rates, 12 different wines, an exclusive seminar and the New Leaf Cafe's sumptuous food to encourage your good attendance.

Outlook University is underway with it's first educational "stay, play, and learn" event.  Willamette Pinot Camp is the first of a series of events for our guests exploring some of our favorite things - food, wine, creativity and wellness.  It could be argued that wine embodies all of them!

We are excited to offer a series of mini conferences during our Spring and Fall seasons exploring food, wine, wellness and creativity.  It is a new facet of our business and one that encompasses one of the most important values of our organization: learning. 

My husband and I took over our 123 year old 40 room hotel and full service restaurant 10 years ago at the age of 23.  Learning is an understatement for what we have had to do over the years and the incredible thing is that we love it, because we haven't stopped learning and being passionate about improving.

This is the opportunity to take your vacation to the next level...relaxed learning that is more in-depth than a traditional wine dinner, and unusual in the caliber of presenters.

We think you will find this topic and those to follow both interesting and delicious, so stay tuned!

Sara Farish
Owner and CEO

Audio Producers Rock on Orcas Island Nov. 12-13, 2011

On November 12-13, an extraordinary group of local and international talent will offer a workshop for professional audio producers at the Outlook Inn on Orcas Island.  Audio professionals, musicians, songwriters and others passionate about creating and refining the art of sound will gather for two days of presentations, panel discussions and demos in sound engineering.

The group of Orcas Island presenters will include Garry Garritan on “Future Trends in Virtual Instrument Technology”.  Garry is a pioneer in large sample libraries and his Garritan Personal Orchestra, released in 2004, has become course material in music colleges around the world.

Jake Perine, who for over a decade taught audio and video production at the Art Institute of Seattle and who was house engineer for Seattle’s prominent RFI mastering studio before moving to Orcas, will present “Bow to the Master”, how to get the most out of the mastering process.

Kevin Dickey and Rich Williams of Burl Audio will offer “The Zen of Signal Path”, an intimate conversation about soul, tone, electrons and electromagnetic fields. Burl Audio has recently found a global audience in the analog/digital converter market and has won a coveted endorsement from Eddie Kramer who has worked with some of the best, including Led Zeppelin and Cream.

The most recent new arrival to Orcas, Craig Russo, will be hosting “Vocal Tuning with Melodyne”. Craig has been involved in music production for over 15 years and in 2009 had a Global #1 song credit for a tune he co-wrote and produced for British artist Robbie Williams. Craig will offer before and after comparisons of an alternative approach to vocal tuning.

Rounding out the local talent will be Roger Sherman who has released over 100 performances from concert halls and other venues around the world. He will bring ideas for incorporating room sound and mic techniques when producing acoustical music in live spaces.

From Canada, Drew will present “The Power of Ableton and its Place in Your World”. His Ableton Live training videos are posted by some of the largest music blogs in the world as well as Mac Pro Video.

A panel discussion on the “Northwest Legacy in Musical History” will feature Bruce Pavitt, founder of SubPop Records, Jack Endino, legendary Seattle producer of Nirvana and Soundgarten and Cathy Faulkner, Seattle’s “Queen of Rock” of radio station KISW fame.

Special room rates for the weekend are available at The Outlook Inn and, with a 2 night booking, conference admission is free. For all others, admission is $100 for the weekend.  For more information go to or call (360) 376-2200 and ask for Adam.

Orcas Island Chef Lisa Nakamura shares her Cinderella Pumpkin Soup on TV!

I makes me feel a little country bumpkinish to get so excited about seeing someone I know on TV, but local Chef Lisa Nakamura has brought an artful little restaurant to Orcas Island and when I found out she was on King 5 teaching how to make her Cinderella Pumpkin Soup, I was thrilled!  Ok, so it helped that they were also going to be giving away a getaway to Orcas Island including a stay at the Outlook Inn and meals at both Lisa's Allium and the New Leaf Cafe.  To plan your own fall getaway to the San Juan Islands check out the San Juan Visitor's Bureau for "Savor the San Juan" lodging and dining deals.  


Lisa shared her recipe for Cinderella Pumpkin Soup, the perfect thing to warm your belly as the chill of fall starts to fill our dwindling evening light.

Cinderella Pumpkin Soup

Cinderella Pumpkin Soup with Homemade Ricotta and Pickled Apples

For the soup

Makes eight portions

2 lbs Cinderella pumpkin (these pumpkins can be around 20 lbs when mature, so see if your grocer will
cut them into sections for you), skinned, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 sprig thyme

2 leaves sage

1 bay leaf

1 stick of cinnamon

1 cup white wine

1 T brown sugar

2 cups cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T butter

In a large heavy non-reactive pot, melt the butter. Add the onion slices and cook them slowly with the
thyme, sage and bay leaves until translucent. (This step is key in producing good soup, it helps coax out
more flavors.)

Add the pumpkin and white wine (use a dry white table wine for cooking, save your fancy white wine for
drinking) and cook until the wine has evaporated. Add enough water to cover the pieces of pumpkin
and season with salt and pepper. When the pumpkin pieces are tender, add the cream and the sugar.
Bring up the boil, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf, and then carefully puree in a blender until
smooth. Strain the soup though a fine sieve. Correct the seasoning as needed.

If the soup is still too thick, thin it out with a little more water and adjust the seasonings as needed.

You may also use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water. I find it changes the taste a little, and
takes away some of the pumpkin flavor intensity. If you use store-bought stock, make sure to purchase
the low sodium version and watch how much salt you add as you cook the soup.

Homemade Ricotta

Make four cups ricotta

½ gallon whole milk

½ gallon cream

1/3 cup + 1 t distilled vinegar

¼ t salt

Instant read thermometer


In a clean non-reactive pot, heat the milk and cream together until it reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir in the salt and vinegar and bring the combination to 175 degrees (just under the boiling point). Let
the mixture stand undisturbed for ten minutes. Carefully strain the curds into a cheesecloth-lined
colander over the sink or a large bowl to catch the whey. Cover the curds and let them continue to
drain in the colander overnight.

The next day, scrape the curds away from the cheesecloth and store in an air-tight container.

You may use this ricotta in savory or sweet applications.

Many recipes call for just whole milk. I like to use cream and milk, as it results in a richer finished

Pickled Apples

Yields approximately two cups

Use tart firm apples, such as Granny Smith, cut into 1’4 inch dice

1 cup rice wine vinegar

¾ cup sugar

2 T salt

½ vanilla bean

1 sprig of thyme

In a non-reactive pot, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla bean and thyme sprig. Cool to room temperature. Add the
apple dice. Let the apples marinate in the pickling liquid at least overnight.

All recipes copyright by Lisa K Nakamura, Allium Restaurant

It's a family affair! Running the business with family...

The Outlook Inn and New Leaf Cafe are truly a family business.  We like to think we are charting a new course for this type of business, but it still can have it's bumps and challenges.  So who is the "family" in family business?  Here's the cast of characters, ala the children's book by Tove Jonasson "Finn Family Moomintroll" which are my daughters recent obsession.

Outlook Mama:  Sara  Farish.  That's me!  I married into this business in 2000 and have been working here since 2001.  I coddle, prod, (but never cattle prod), encourage, and learn from this constantly changing and evolving team.  I'm the softie of the bunch...and can often be found wiping tears and giving pep talks.  I have also been known to invoke the "No Asshole Policy" when pushed too far (more on this another time).

The Head Honcho: Adam Farish.  That's my husband.  He's been working and living in this business since he was a child.  Officiando of detail, financial seer, and the guy who created our incredible signature cocktails while repainting the buiding, producing an album, and being an all around fantastic husband and father.  Bravo!

Gramcracker: That's my mom.  She can be found in the dining room greeting our guests, scolding the bussers, and generally running a tip top ship.  She also makes sure that the plants don't dry up and die and helps Adam and I care for our daughter.  She can also make a mean latte.  This is a busy woman!

The GM:  Jon Kobayashi.  My brother-in-law, married to my older sister Adina.  They have three children, Sophia 9, and the twins Sachiko and Josh 5.  Jon can be found all around.  In retro Nike sneackers and jeans, the only man on the island under 50 who owns a collared shirt (and it's ironed) and actually wears it, he used to be a litigator and joined our team 3 years ago.  He's the guy who books our weddings and events, oversees day to day operations, and obsesses about food, art, and jazz music.

Grandpabello:  John Cunningham.  My dad.  Night watchman, maintenace engineer, non-violent communication specialist.  Sometimes night maintenance engineer who is practicing the art of non-violent communication. 


History of the Outlook Inn on Orcas Island: Part 1

The Inn began life in 1876 under the auspices of settler Charles W. Shattuck. Sometimes known as the founder of Eastsound, he was a former forty-niner who came north from the California gold fields to prospect during the Fraser River gold rush. When his luck played out, he worked in a coal mine near the town of Seahome (Bellingham) from which he hurriedly departed after a fire and cave-in in the shaft.
Shattuck headed to Orcas around 1860, pitched his tent near the current site of the Inn—probably due to the excellent spring that emerged here—and set himself up as a hunter. Like other early settlers, including Louis Cayou, he sold meat and hides to British buyers in Victoria. During Shattuck’s time, the elk herds that once roamed Orcas were hunted to extinction.
In the late 1860’s as the island’s population steadily grew, Shattuck built a house at the head of Fishing Bay. After San Juan County was formed in 1873, he opened a small store in the house serving local farmers, lime kiln workers, passing Native Americans and occasional trappers. Four years later, he was named Postmaster of East Sound (the Postal Service renamed the office to Eastsound in 1985) and handled the mail next door to the store. To round out his activities, he built a dance hall upstairs with his own living quarters in the rear.
Shattuck’s place was an all-in-one establishment. In addition to buying supplies, posting a letter or dancing, customers could get a haircut, a tooth pulled or their horses shod. If they got a little too rambunctious, they were likely to end up in the jail just outside the back door.
In 1887, Shattuck sold the operation to Walter Sutherland, a former railroad man who originally came from New York. With his son, Luther, Sutherland set about remodeling and expanding the building. In 1891, they opened a 22-room hotel named Eastsound House. The hostelry was famous for its thick steaks of venison and bear meat. As Eastsound became a settled village with grocery, drug stores, hardware stores, churches and a school, the Inn served as the favorite place for locals.
Eastsound House also became the focal point of a new industry on Orcas—tourism. Sojourners from Seattle increasingly sought the island’s rural tranquility arriving by boat to attend dances and clam bakes or simply to relax in a rocker on the verandah. Access was at first via Anacortes on paddle wheelers such as the State of Washington and thence to Eastsound by small steamer. Direct service soon became available from Whatcom and Seattle aboard such famous steamers as the Islander, Rosalie and Lydia Thompson.
In 1908, Eastsound House was sold to Mrs. Ida Baker. After which, it went through a series of changes. Variously operated as the Mt. Constitution Inn and the Beach Hotel, the establishment was simply called Baker’s Beach by most locals to avoid confusion. Baker actively promoted her business offering tennis and croquet as well as dances, hay rides and clam bakes. At one point, she even claimed curative powers for the waters of the spring. Nonetheless, business steadily declined and she closed the doors in the late 20’s.
The building sat empty for some 15 years as the island economy declined due to the Great Depression and downturns in farming, fishing and forestry. In 1942, Seattle capitalist, Fred P. Myers, purchased it. He refurbished it completely then quickly sold it to his old friend, E.G. McMicken, a former steamship man. It was McMicken and his wife who named it the Outlook Inn. Under their management, the old hotel gained a new reputation for fine dining combined with country tranquility. McMicken sold it in 1946 due to poor health. After which, the Inn was sold three more times.
When the Inn was purchased by a non-profit organization in 1967, it was in a state of disrepair and lacking in amenities. It had an uneven log foundation, no insulation, two toilets for 12 rooms, an oil-fired range in the kitchen, dangerous wiring, one telephone and no heat in the bedrooms. Laundry was done by hand and put outside to dry. The organization sought to restore the Inn to a more original state and, after many repairs and much remodeling, the Inn provided lodging and an outstanding restaurant known by residents and travelers for homemade bread, clam chowder and apple pie. Staff came from all over the country to help with the restoration and to partake in the organization’s activities. They lived on the property, tended the gardens, cooked and served the meals and cleaned the rooms while learning to “find yourself by losing yourself”. The profits were allocated for monthly conferences with famous personages of the time (best selling authors, college presidents, leading doctors of various occupations, and others). Additionally, the Inn sponsored teenagers in drug rehabilitation, offered classes and teachings and pioneered a unique curriculum for bright under-achievers that served as a pilot model for special educational institutions. The goal of the Inn and the staff was to be of service to mankind in any manner possible and to create a nurturing environment that allowed for guests to truly take pleasure in the island and themselves.
A second building was erected in the 1980’s housing traditional type rooms with private bathrooms. The Bay View Luxury Suites building was built in 1995.
A “family-style” corporation now owns the Inn - the natural evolution as it became more of a commercial establishment. Yet, the staff maintains the principals of service to guests, community and employees. It is still the perfect place to “lose yourself”.

Where is Orcas Island?

We get this question all the time, especially when our to number was freakishly close to an online business called Reservation Rewards (their new number is 1-800-732-7031 in case you are still dealing with those pesky recurring charges) and people had no idea what the Outlook Inn was.  But really…are we in San Juan, Puerto Rico?  Are we in Canada?  No, but close.  Orcas Island is located in the San Juan Archipeligo in Washington State. Orcas Island can be reached via the Washington State Ferry system departing from Anacortes, Washington, just 2 hours north of Seattle or 2 hours south of Vancouver, Canada. 

Air service to the island is provided by San Juan Airlines and Kenmore Air.  San Juan Airlines departs from both Bellingham Airport and Boeing Field in Seattle and provides a transfer shuttle from Sea-Tac Airport.  Kenmore Air provides daily flights between Seattle and seven locations in the three locations on Orcas Island on both seaplanes and wheeled aircraft.   

Orcas Island is a horseshoe shaped island of fertile verdant valleys, narrow fjord like harbors, and steep emerald mountains the highest, Mount Constitution in Moran State Park, reaching at 2409 feet above sea level.  Dotted along the shoreline and tucked amongst the trees are the varied dwellings, hotels, homesteads, and experiements in island archetechure that house the approximately 5500 residents.

Curious?  Come see for yourself!  We'd love to have you.


Farmers Market Orcas Island : In Pictures and a few words

As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words.   What do these hand felted pin cushions (below) from Bossy Feltworks say?  I think it tells the story of these three incredible island women, who through friendship, creativity, and sheer determination of spirit have made a thriving little business.  Not only is the story of their work endearing but you cannot help but be completely charmed by their creations. 

But a photo is just a photo, is just a must see this for yourself!

Bossy Feltworks, Orcas Island

Basil plants from Black Dog Farm

Island Thyme Soaps made on Orcas Islan

Seriously the most intoxicating roses from Black Dog Farm