The Blog

Simplify and Multiply with Terry Pappy

It was such a pleasure to connect with Terry and talk about Common Craft and Big Enough. She read the book and has serious experience in online business and marketing. In my experience, that is a great combination for fun and interesting interview. She is eight seasons into her podcast and has a voice made more audio.

Lee Podcast Promo

Listen to the Episode 809: Common Craft’s Lee LeFever on Scaling without Sacrifice of Creativity

I Can Recommend: In and Of Itself ✅

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #94 – The Dogs of the House Project


Rainier Panorama

Derek DelGaudio’s In and Of Itself (Hulu) – I went into watching this with no context and it kind of blew my mind. It’s a film that captures a one-man stage show that was performed every day for over 500 days. It’s part philosophy, part creativity, part sleight-of-hand, part memory competition. I especially loved his description the time between sunset and darkness that his grandfather called “The time between dog and wolf”. It’s the time in the evening when you can’t tell which is which. It’s a metaphor for much of the show.

Killing Eve (Hulu) – We recently watched the movie Sideways, which we both love, and it reminded us that Sandra Oh is the star of Killing Eve. We’ve completed most of the first season and really enjoyed the cat-and-mouse spy thriller. I especially like the psychopathic Villanelle character, played by Jodie Comer. Unlike over-the-top portrayals of fictional psychopaths, Villanelle feels real.

The Dig (Netflix) – In our house, calming British dramas are common. This movie is based on a true story of an aristocratic widow in England with mysterious ancient burial mounds on her property. She enlists the help of an excavator (amateur archeologist) played by Ralph Fiennes, to find out what’s inside the mounds.

If you’re considering watching Ava (Netflix), starring Jessica Chastain, maybe keep looking.

Go to all Recommendations

The Dogs of the House Project 🐶 🐕

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


There is an unwritten rule about home building projects on Orcas Island: well-behaved dogs are welcome. On any given day there is at least one dog on-site and we’ve grown to love them all.

The true house dog is Koda and we see her almost every day. She greets us in the driveway and when we reach down, she submissively puts her ears back and she curls into crescent with a wagging tail and whines as if to say “oooooh, you’re here please touch me, ooohhhh.” Her fur is as soft as she is sweet. Koda has the unique luxury of an on-site bed, but sometimes prefers a nice pile of sawdust in the sunshine. Koda belongs to the site foreman, Casey.

Koda

A dog we don’t see as often but consider a house dog is Beaudry, who belongs to Jorgen, the blacksmith. Beaudry is a cuddler if you give him the chance, and very dedicated to fetching. There is an orange rubber toy in the shape of a pig at the house that has to be hidden from him because once he has it, it constantly ends up on your feet.

Beaudry

Beauregard arrives with Kevin, the electrician. Beau sees so many job sites and people that he moves around the house like an inspector, unconcerned with the humans. Once you get his attention, though, he’s sweet and friendly. One weekend we were staining cedar and had placed boards on the floor to dry. Kevin arrived to check-in and before we knew it, Beauregard added a few nice paw prints to the newly stained cedar. We fixed them with ease.

Beauregard

Coco was one of the first dogs on site because she belongs to Tyler, the excavator. She’s also a dedicated fetcher and will drop any stick she can find at your feet for as long as you want to keep throwing it, and then some. Coco now has a little sister named Clover.

Coco

Some dogs arrive at the site and wait patiently in their vehicle. One of those is this handsome puppy, Douglas, who is owned by Niles, one of the plumbers. Douglas is exactly what you’d expect: amazingly sweet and soft to the touch.

Douglas

I’ll throw a deer in for good measure. When we started cutting down risky trees to make room for the house, the deer had a buffet for a while.

black-tailed deer

Also, not a real dog, and not on Orcas Island, but check out this driftwood Boxer in Anacortes, Washington.

Driftwood Boxer

With so many friendly dogs around, I think about them being a physical part of the project. No doubt, their hair is now under the floor and in the walls. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What is the Ready for Rain Newsletter About?

I struggled with this question for a long time and experimented with a wide variety of subjects. Lately I feel more confident and recently asked subscribers to take a quick survey to find out their perceptions and that they enjoyed, or not. The results are below:

Q: What stories interest you most (choose multiple)?

  • Personal stories/anecdotes (81%)
  • Orcas Island/transition to the island (81%) TIE
  • Relationships (including w Sachi) (63%)
  • Construction Project (56%)
  • Creative Work (50%)
  • Book Publishing (25%)

Q: Thoughts on the recommendations in each issue?

  • 90+% love em
  • 6.3% don’t care
  • 3.1% meh

Q: What should I optimize (choose one)?

  • Stories (47%)
  • Photos (23%)
  • Recommendations (7%)

The results aren’t surprising. Though, I realize that for the last year I’ve been writing a lot about Big Enough and our house project, and they are not the most popular subjects. Thankfully those projects are mostly done and I’ll be ready to share more variety.

I Can Recommend: Alone on TV ✅

tracks in snow

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #93 – This is About the Ham.

Alone (Hulu) – We’ve watched six seasons of this show and look forward to more. It’s a reality show where ten survivalists are dropped off in a remote, and often cold location with a selection of supplies and camera gear. Then, they do their best to survive the longest while constantly creating videos of their lives.

It’s a simple premise that feels authentic because there are no games or petty dramas. Most contestants battle hunger, wildlife, and weather, but the real enemy is mental. Loneliness drives people crazy. The longest stay so far is 87 days. Home is one satellite phone call away.

We first learned about the show because a person on neighboring Lopez Island, Nathan Donnelly, was a contestant on season 6. Two summers ago we went camping with a group and he was there. The show had been filmed, but was not yet published. He, of course, was tight lipped about the outcome. We later learned that he was the second person from Lopez to compete. The other one was Callie North. Island people are tough. 🙂

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

This is About the Ham 🐖

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

I’ve always helped in the kitchen, but over the pandemic, I have become Sachi’s sous chef. Along with chopping and preparing, I’m learning about flavor and sauces. She’s my teacher and I try to follow instructions. Sometimes the most mundane things, like chopping onions, have a secret technique that makes it easier. 

A few days ago, we came home with a four pound hunk of ham from Costco. It was one big piece of meat, similar in size to a spiral cut holiday ham. Then, yesterday, the power went out as a result of a wind storm and the ham, being fully cooked, started to look like dinner. Preparing for the power outage, Sachi had boiled some somen noodles, which are often served cold with a sesame soy sauce. With the ham and somen, we could have a classic Hawaii dish for dinner. 

Kirkland Ham

It got dark, we lit candles and I concocted brandy drinks with a syrup I made from leftover peach juice and Serrano peppers. We had a couple of drinks to celebrate the novelty of being powerless. Then, just as we got comfortable in the candlelight, the power returned. With a sigh, we moved into the kitchen, five paces away, to make dinner under the lights. 

The ham, sitting as a heap of protein on the counter, was a puzzle to be solved. We needed a portion for dinner, maybe 10% of it. The rest needed to be cut into pieces and stored in the fridge. This is where the discussion began. 

I asked Sachi, “So, how would you approach this?” 

Being the sous chef, I wanted to know what she would do in terms of cutting up the ham. Left on my own, I could certainly do it, but I thought it was a teachable moment. 

At first, she just kind of shrugged, “Whatever you think.” So, I looked at the ham, then at our storage containers. She said, “That one.” pointing to a larger Tupperware. I didn’t think it was large enough, so I brought out two large containers and looked at Sachi as if to say, “These?”

She didn’t respond directly, but she didn’t have to. Her silence in these situations tells a story. She had thoughts, but she was holding them close and letting me squirm, just a bit. I felt it. She clearly wasn’t sure about needing two containers.

This tiny decision about the containers and the ham was the perfect setup for an animated discussion. If you were to watch from afar, you might have thought we were arguing. While these discussions might include a bit of passion, they remain civil and kind-hearted. Behind the words is a genuine competition to verbally outmaneuver the other side. 

Sachi relishes an intellectual battle. She will pick a logical side and stand her ground, just as she did with her brother, Mark, when they were growing up. When the opportunity arises, she expects me to challenge her in the same way. I didn’t grow up with that kind of competition and it took me years to figure out how to fight for an idea with a smile on my face. This was my chance. If you can’t smile about ham, what can you smile about? 

We both looked at the ham on the counter and I asked, again, what she would do. She said, flippantly to my ears, “It’s a puzzle. I think it can fit in the first container.” In our relationship, this is loaded language. I’m famously bad with abstract puzzles and Sachi is famously good. Rather than teaching me how she would approach the ham, I heard in my head, “Dance for me monkey boy – let’s see you solve this puzzle.” Maybe alcohol influenced my perceptions just a bit. 

In my mind, time efficiency mattered. Looking at the ham compared to the first container, there was no way it could fit; a physical impossibility. I declared, “There is NO WAY that will fit!” Left on my own, I would not waste time trying to solve the puzzle when we could just use two containers from the beginning. I could have it done in ten seconds. We both could have left it alone and disengaged, but what’s the fun in that?

Instead, I pleaded my case. Why go to all the trouble of trying to make it fit? It seemed like an inefficient use of time. All the while, Sachi implored me to try. She also argued, correctly, that two containers was an inefficient use of limited space in the fridge.

Instead of settling with, “Fine, just use two containers.”, she kept saying, “Try it, see if it will work.”  I scoffed. There was no way that big ass ham was fitting in the Tupperware. No way. At this point it wasn’t about storing ham as much as the sides we’d picked. 

We both have times, during these discussions, when we’ve exhausted our talking points and it becomes repetitive. Sometimes this provokes a subtle shift where other subjects get wrapped into the main debate. In our discussion about the ham, Sachi brought up a point about cleaning up coffee grounds that felt like one of these extensions. At first, I took it as a grievance about me not cleaning thoroughly and said, “Let’s not go there, this is about the ham.” 

She understood my redirection and seemed to agree. Looking back, this was a strategy I’d never tried before. We were in a debate about ham and as long as it stayed about ham, we could argue and parry without hurt feelings. 

Sachi stuck up for her coffee example by saying it supported her case about the ham. Whether it’s ham or coffee, I often take the easy route versus the most thorough or deliberate route. Point taken. These debates often relate back to the fundamental differences between us. That’s why it was important to me to keep the focus on the ham and not our personalities. A fine line indeed.

We could both feel the discussion coming to an end without a clear winner. The only thing left to do was to solve the puzzle. I grabbed a knife and started cutting up the ham as Sachi prepped other dishes.  

As I cut fist-sized portions and placed them in the Tupperware, the outside of the ham seemed to fill the rounded corners of the container. Four portions covered the bottom with a better fit than I wanted to admit. I kept cutting, all the while looking at what remained and glancing at Sachi. “There’s no way this is going fit”, I thought to myself. Layer by layer, the ham filled the container. Sachi heard me mutter, “No fucking way” as the final pieces of the puzzle filled the Tupperware to the brim with ham. It was going to be close. 

I was prepared to eat crow, but held out hope. The container still needed the lid to fit properly! Only by successfully affixing the lid could we be sure that the ham fit. That was a rule I made up on the spot. I tried once with no luck. Then, I shuffled the top few puzzle pieces and tried again. Sachi smiled, or maybe it was a smirk, I’m not sure.

The successful click of the lid snapping into place was met with more profanity from me and laughter that forced Sachi into a chair to recover. I hadn’t seen her laugh that hard in months.

In some ways this was the perfect ending. She won, but it didn’t feel like I lost. My approach was emblematic of my personality, but the debate was about the logistics of storing ham. In the end, the winner was clear and I could laugh about losing because it wasn’t really about me. It was about the ham.

Podcast Interview with Rodney Flowers of Game Changer Mentality

This was such an interesting and fun interview. Part of the reason is Rodney’s smooth and confident demeanor. He’s composed and understated, but speaks with great confidence. By the end of the interview, I felt like we were friends. I hope you’ll give the show a listen. You can also read the interview on his blog.

An interview between Lee LeFever and Rodney Flowers on his Game Change

Learn more about my books, Big Enough and The Art of Explanation, which were featured in the interview.

I Can Recommend: 2-8-21 ✅

sea lions and mount baker

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #92 – Hibernating in the PNW

The theme for this week’s recommendations: school girl comedies and con artists.

  • Derry Girls (Netflix) – A comedy about Catholic school teenagers in Northern Ireland during the peak of the IRA in the 80s. It’s an odd mix of history, family drama, and hilariously off-color dialogue.

  • Pen15 (Hulu) – Forgive me, but I’m recommending another comedy about school girls. This time it’s the story of two best friends in 7th grade, played by adults Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. It’s cringy and hilarious. It gets extra points in our house because Maya is half-Japanese, like Sachi, and it’s a large part of the story.

  • Chameleon (10 episode podcast) – I love stories about con artists and this one is fascinating and easily bingeable. It follows the story of someone preying on Hollywood strivers in odd and mysterious ways.

  • The Confidence Game (Book) Speaking of con artists, I enjoyed this book by Maria Konnikova which dissects all the ways con artists take advantage of others.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

Hibernating in the PNW ☔️ 🦠

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


This morning I donned a puffy jacket and took the dogs out to our little ramshackle dog run on the side of the guesthouse. Once we were outside, I noticed something odd. The little area of concrete where I stand and wait for the dogs was dry and lightly colored. There was no drip from the roof onto the top of my head. It was chilly and windy, but dry.

That sounds unremarkable. But for this time of year in the pacific northwest, dry concrete is hard to come by. I noticed the same thing when we lived in Seattle. We get so used to wet roads and sidewalks that we notice when they’re dry. They seem so fresh and clean.

I’ve always looked forward to the arrival of the rain in October of each year. After a long, sunny summer, I’m ready for a more interior lifestyle. I want to build fires and light candles and finish the evening with a thumb of whisky. It’s the season of hygge, the Danish tradition of coziness and togetherness in winter. 

This winter is different for most people, but not because of the weather. Usually, the refuge from the rain is not only the warmth of home, but people. I have such fond memories of dinner parties and game nights that felt extra cozy with rain beating on the skylights and fire in the fireplace. We will surely return to those days, but for now, they seem far away.

We recently had a spontaneous evening beer on the porch of a local brewery. We hadn’t been there since the pandemic started and purchased beer from a walk-up window into what was formerly a small indoor bar. It was pleasantly dark and we sat on cold wooden benches, between puddles and drank a pint that remained cold and refreshing from top to bottom. It felt like a treat. Just doing something, even in the cold and without friends, felt like a step in the right direction. Look at us! We’re not at home! 

When we returned, the dogs greeted us and we settled in, just like any other night, snug in our chairs. I’ve started to think about our little guest house as a den, where we wait out the winter, the pandemic, and the house project. 20 months in, it feels like home, but I’m sure we’ll look back on these days with a sense of wonder. It’s one thing to be quarantining. It’s yet another to be quarantining in a tiny apartment set on 18 isolated acres, on a rural island, during a PNW winter, while building a house. 

We’ll hibernate for a bit longer and then emerge ready for spring, which can’t arrive soon enough. My only concern is emerging with thicker insulation than when it started. We won’t be alone. 

For now, from our den, we can anticipate a spring spent living in the house we’ve thought about for so long. It’s hard not to imagine quarantining there instead of the guest house. Part of what’s missing today is a place to be outside that’s comfortable and dry. It would be the only way we could have had friends over this winter. Of course, that space exists just down the road, but it’s not quite ready.  

Now is the season of anticipation for us all. No matter what happens with public health, the days will get longer, the temperature will slowly creep up and the flowers will bloom. We can always count on the change of seasons to change us, too. When we finally emerge from the winter, we’ll have lived through a dark period of history that will serve as a contrast to the light. This hibernation is one for the ages.

My hope is that there is still time to salvage the 2020’s. After a rough start, I’m hoping that all the uncertainty and fear will be replaced by a widespread sense of hope and optimism that’s been pent-up for too long. Once it’s released, the 20s may roar, just as they did a century ago. I, for one, will be ready. 

I Can Recommend: 2-2-21 ✅

sea lions and mount baker

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #91 – Because It’s Cool

We’ve been re-watching movies from the not-so-distant past, so that’s my focus this week.

  • Lost in Translation (Amazon) – A top ten movie for me. Scarlett Johansson (who was 17 at the time) and Bill Murray connect in Tokyo. Director Sofia Coppola beautifully captures the strange experience of being a famous American in a strange land.

  • Swingers (HBO Max) – Classic 90s L.A. comedy with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. I can’t see Favreau today without thinking he’s a grown up version of Mikey.

  • Intolerable Cruelty (Amazon) – A lesser-known and lesser-loved Coen Brother movie that we both have seen many times. Such great writing and hilarious characters. Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney star.

You can get my recommendations in your inbox each week by subscribing to Ready for Rain, below:

Lee LeFever Headshot

About Me

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

My Books

advertisement advertisement