Solistice Celebaration Orcas Island Style

 Here comes the sun!  That seems to be the theme around here.  Early strawberries are soaking in the sun and turning a delicious red, shoulders are appearing white and wintry from long sleeves, and sandles, well we're trying not to wear them with socks so much (it's Orcas Island after all and this fashion crime happens year round).

The culmination of our sundance happens every year during the annual Solstice Parade.  Dancing flower pots, the Oddfellows band, kids on bikes, a wandering 20 foot dragon and a giant earth ball carried by a big huggie ghost (how to describe this costume...) are regular appearances.  It is full of jubilant faces, community creativity, and the heartfelt thanks that we made it through another winter to be reborn into the sun.  And if you live in the Pacific Northwest you know this really does feel like an accomplishment.

The theme this year is "Around the World" and the Parade is on June 18 at 12:00 NOON in Eastsound.  Parking can be tricky for this event (but you don't have to worry about it if you are staying at the Inn, just walk on over). 

Enjoy this video from the 2008 parade and find out more at there website.

Are vacations hard?

We look forward to these special times with family and friends for weeks and months, sometimes even years.  For our family we hadn't been away from Orcas Island and the Inn for more than a few nights since 2009 when we visited our sister hotel in Phuket, Thailand.  So when we were invited to San Diego for 4 nights to relax with no agenda but fun, we couldn't wait to catch the ferry out of here and feel that warm California sun.

When we travel we love to see what other hotels and restaurants are doing, it's kind of our thing, but what I was most aware of this trip was what it felt like to be a guest.  My passion is creating a nurturing and beautiful experience for the travelers that come to Orcas Island and stay at the Inn.  What I found is that it's not always easy to be a traveler.

You'd think that once you were free of the cleaning the  cat box, going to work, packing lunches for school, rushing here and there, your mood would instantly be elevated.  And it would stay like that for the entire vacation.  Just because.  Right?  Well,  it's easier said than done, this relaxing business.  I had a hard time getting my mind into vacation mode.  This transition from my day to day life to the carefree pace of vacation mode was a constant practice for me.

 "Remember....relax, have fun, there is no need to rush.  It's right here.  Happening now.  This is it!" I kept reminding myself.

And moment by moment it worked.  I spent the morning walking downtown with my five year old daughter and we stopped to pick up every rock, pinecone, shiny penny, and miscellaneous (and probably very dirty) piece of treasure we found.  I got lost in her world, where the only rush is the skip to the ice cream shop so we can leisurely nibble our way through two scoops.  She knows about relaxing.

I came home with the same refrain still ringing in my head.  "This is it!"  Because why is so different really, my mindset at home or on vacation.  We don't go any faster because we are worried about rushing.  We don't get anything more accomplished because we are worried about what we have to do.  And if I could relax I'd just do it at home, but sometimes I need travel to unlock the magic of the moment and bring me back to myself.

So when you've traveled long (or short with many inconveniences) and you arrive at the Outlook Inn, I hope we can ease you into vacation mode by providing a relaxing and beautiful space, and the kind of service that reminds you that "It's right here.  Happening now.  Remember....relax, have fun, there is no need to rush.  This is it!"

Hope to see you soon at the Inn and let us know if you need directions to the ice cream shop.

New art to the New Leaf Cafe : heartfelt thanks to Crow Valley Pottery

Do you remember Christmas morning as a kid?  The anticipation you felt knowing something wonderful was going to happen in the morning and then the sheer joy coming down the stairs to see stockings full with surprises and the tree laden in gifts.  It's magical right?  Well yesterday I got the adult version of Christmas morning.  Crow Valey Pottery owners Michael Rivkin and Jeffri Coleman came by in the afternoon and while I slogged through paperwork at my desk and rain came down outside, they infused new energy and life into the New Leaf Cafe.  They brought from their remarkable inventory new pieces of art, pottery, and woodwork, spent a few hours tinkering, and viola, the space feels like it just got a hot new outfit and it's ready for a date (with YOU of course).  We are so grateful!  My pictures really don't do the art justice, you must come see yourself.

We have linocuts from artist Natalia Moroz, oils (like the one above of fresh oysters and lemons) from Robin Lassen and David Ridgway, charming pencil drawings by Christopher Cook just to name a few.  The overall feeling is fresh and evokes the carefree days for summer.   All of the pieces (along with many more at their two store locations on Orcas Island) are for sale.

I know it's spring, but as an adult, Santa can come during any season.

For more information on Crow Valley Pottery, visit thier website or next time you are on the island visit their store next to Darvill's Bookstore here in Eastsound, or the Cottage in Crow Valley.


Share your eyes and your opinions...we really care


When Adam and I came to the Inn 10 years ago there was no tripadvisor or yelp.  Guests who didn't enjoy their meal or their stay came directly to us with feedback or they just left and didn't come back.  The world sure has changed a lot.  Now we have glowing reviews and occasionally scathing reviews both with a measure of anonymity that can delight and sadden in equal measure.  The world of online reviews has turned the interaction between businesses and their clients on their heads.

A recent article in fact draws a direct correlation between the revenue of a small independant restaurant and their star rating on Yelp.  What the author of the study, Michael Luca, found was "that a one-star rating increase on Yelp leads to a five to nine percent increase in revenue, regardless of the actual quality of the restaurant itself".  For a business doing $1 Million in revenue that could equal an additional $50,000-90,000, no small matter in this tight economy.  So what does this have to do with us?  We're a little hotel and restaurant on Orcas Island, run by the same family for 44 years, the "youngsters" that have followed in our parents footsteps, whose friends are well versed in the online world.  We want to use these online forums to both build our business and also serve as a platform for a balanced approach to solving problems.


And that's the thing...we really care.  We want to solve the problems that could potentially occur during a meal or a stay at the Inn.

When people choose us over some other option on the island or even in some other location, we feel like we have entered into a contract to give them a clean, beautiful room, friendly, warm service, nourishing, tasty food and a place where they can come to relax and renew.  It is our job to provide a place for this unwinding, supporting their relaxation and enjoyment. That's what we have chosen to do with our lives.

There's a lot involved in that.  To start, people want a clean room.  It's a basic.  But they also want something far more complex.  They want to NOT be distracted from the beauty of the island or the relaxation they are chasing by a mistake we have made that could have been avoided. 

95% of our guests report a great deal of satisfaction with there stays and let's face it, when you work hard and really care it is important to receive positive feedback.  It encourages people, motivates them, and can literally make their day.  On the flip side, when we a guest calls our attention to the fact that they don't have hot water (which occasionally happens when all 14 oversized jacuzzi tubs are in use at the same time), or that their soup is cold, or that one of our staff members was rude, it is distracting from their enjoyment.

And here's the other thing...


It's the people that are not enjoying their experience that we need to especially hear from so we can get ever better at what we do.  We prefer be told about problems at the time they happen so we have an opportunity to improve the situation, but if you're too mad, don't like confrontation, are just plain shy, or didn't think of it at the time, we are all ears any time after your stay too.

So please share with us...if you have a suggestion for how we can improve, we look forward to hearing from you.  If you saw the beauty, appreciated your service, tasted the good wine, and loved your truffle fries, go ahead and crow about it to the stars (people read the stars through the internet these day...links below). We, and our staff, truly appreciate knowing we have served you well!

Review the Outlook Inn and The New Leaf Cafe on Tripadvisor,Yelp, or Google or you can email us, the owners, Sara and Adam Farish.

Easter and the "Unprofessional" Bunny

I have been teaching a sewing class for 7 and 8 year old girls at our local kids activity center, an amazing place called the Funhouse.  It's this really cool place where kids can come and hang out, play, and learn.  This last class we made little bunnies for Easter and I decided to make one for my daughter and surprise her for Easter.  Last night as I put her to bed, she said "Mom, I love the bunny you made me more than the bunnies we buy at Ray's Pharmacy, do you know why?  It's just so unprofessional (read artisan) and full of love, I can just feel how much love you felt when you made it and the ones from the store just aren't the same".  I explained that when the store bunnies were made there were probably 1000's made at a time and she said, "Yeah, and they were just like careless with those bunnies.  They put no love in."

Wishing you a bunny full of love and a professional five year old to point it out!  Happy post easter bunny love...

Picnic Island : Orcas Island, Washington

Anyone know what a tombolo is?  Well it's quite nifty and we have one of our very own leading from the beach in front of the Inn to the little island that lies in front of it.  A tombolo is "a is a deposition landform in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar" (thank you wikipedia).  Our little tombolo is made of clam, oyster, and other shells and has a distinctive color variation from the beach.


This magical sand bridge that opens up at low tide is lots of fun with kids and yesterday as the sun shown in a truly spring like fashion, my five year old daughter Kiyomi and I grabbed a picnic and our rubber boots and went out to the island.  The Canadian geese are nesting on the island and we were surprised as we came along the path to find a nest with eight unhatched eggs, waiting for a warm mama to return.  We kept off the island after that, afraid we may have scared the mother goose away.   Exploring the edge of the island there were still many exciting discoveries, including orange and purple starfish clinging to the rocks and clams squrting all along the tombolo.  Orcas Island is so full of these incredible opportunities to be in nature, and they are made that much more magical when seen through the eyes of a child.  It's just steps from the front door of the Outlook Inn...and it's been too long since I enjoyed it.

hail & sunshine + photo shoot + webbie webbie website

Adam and I were having coffee at Enzo's this morning and looked out the window to find hail boucing off the cars outside.  It didn't last long and the sun came out just in time to bathe the New Leaf Cafe dining room in bright white sunshine for our photo shoot with Nate Feder.  When I began designing the "About Us" page for this website I realized we had so few pictures of Adam and I together, so today we sat and smiled and tried to get a good shot.  Modeling is hard work!   What do you think?

It's not the final shot, but I thought it was a cutie.  More to come...and perhaps some new photos of things around Orcas.  For now I'll leave you with this quick shot we grabbed at the end of the shoot with Chef Steve Debaste and General Manager Jon Kobayashi...what a happy bunch!