Sarena Breed

sarena8When Sarena unlocked the doors to the Frame Mill Artworks on the morning of March 22, 2017, she excited and nervous. The previous owner Robyn Koski had helped make the transition as smooth as possible, but there was so much Sarena didn’t know, like the flow of the business or the nuances of her employees. Her nerves were further rattled when a supply truck pulled up to make a big delivery.

Up to now, Sarena had shied away from taking risks. For 10 years she worked nights at the Stanford Inn while her husband Sean Barrett worked days at Family Tree Service. This schedule made one of them available to care for their daughter Holiday. A few years ago, Sarena began to yearn for more. “I needed to create a different idea for how to do life, to find a career that feeds my soul. A friend asked what kind of role model I wanted to be for my daughter. I realized I want her to see me as a business owner.”


Patricia Breed

Sarena channeled the courage of her foremothers to fulfill this vision. Her great-grandmother divorced her husband when such a thing was unthinkable and supported her family by running boardinghouses. Her paternal grandmother emigrated from the Philippines, worked at the post office, lived frugally, and put her money into San Francisco rental properties. Her maternal grandmother was a professional photographer and actress who also invested in real estate. Sarena’s mother Patricia Breed managed to become an artist and poet while raising six children over a span of 42 years.


In 1985, Sarena’s family moved to Fort Bragg where she entered her senior year of high school. “It was uncommon for new families to come to the area, and I felt like an outsider. Before me, the newest kid in my class arrived in sixth grade. All the other kids had long established friendships. I couldn’t wait to finish high school and get out of here.” She left for college in 1986, and never dreamed she’d move back.

Sarena majored in studio art with a specialty in metal casting. After graduation, she stayed in Chico and spent 10 years working for a custom picture framing business and making her own art.

In 2002, she met future husband Sean at a party in Chico and reconnected with him a few weeks later. “He had no idea I was from Fort Bragg and out of the blue started talking about hosarena3w much he loved the area. I liked him, but wasn’t interested in a serious relationship. I was considering an MFA program at Mills College. Instead, I moved back to Fort Bragg in 2003 to live with my parents. I needed time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Within six months, Sean also moved here and was hired by Western ACI as an arborist.”

One thing led to another—they got married and had daughter Holiday in 2006. “We lived in a cabin on my parents’ property. Holiday was able to run back and forth between the two houses. It was a very special time for her.” They eventually moved into their own home, but her parents remain a tremendous help with caring for their daughter.


sarena4The Frame Mill had been on the market for a few years. Sarena’s background in framing allowed her to imagine buying it. She spoke to friends who own businesses and they assured her becoming a business owner was one of the best things they’d ever done. She looks back on this now and chuckles. “It’s like talking to parents when you’re considering having a child. They tell you how wonderful it is, but leave out the part about sleepless nights.”

In September 2016, she contacted the realtor. Six months later, she was the owner. “I’ve realized it’s not as easy as it looks from the outside. There’s the bookkeeping, ordering, making employee schedules, banking—I’d underestimated how much time all of this takes. I’m working seven days a week and thinking about it all the time, but slowly finding my rhythm.”

SarenaSarena is pleased to discover her business is part of a little neighborhood hub. “People bring in family photos and art projects. It’s fun to help design a way to display them. I’ve been warmly welcomed by the downtown business community.” She plans to evolve the Frame Mill Artworks into a maker’s space. “So few places make what they sell. I want to eventually create affordable art that people can buy to furnish their walls.” In the meantime, she’s learning how to merchandise the store with items that appeal to locals and tourists. “It’s hard because people have a variety of tastes, some very different from mine.”


sarena10Returning to the town where she once felt like an outsider has been a positive experience for Sarena. “It used to be ‘What family are you from?’ Now many people live here who don’t have roots going back generations. New people are moving in and young ones are moving back, some bringing families with them. The more our town can do to be a place people are attracted to—like the opening of the coastline via the coastal trails—the more it will encourage young people to move here.”

Sarena is grateful to be able to use her creative energy to make a living. “In so many ways, this feels like a gift. Robyn spent decades building a great business that I could buy to fulfill the next logical step in my life.

”I’ve been evaluating what kind of business owner I want to be. The word that continues to come up is kindness. There’s a whole ripple effect to the smallest act of kindness. I strive to be the person who starts that ripple.”



Turkish Apricot Scones

DSC02906What can you do with Woodstock Turkish Apricots besides enjoy their yummy taste and feel good about serving your body a healthful snack?

DSC02937You can put them in scones along with another product sold at The Purity: endangered species chocolate

Last week I became bored with my old scone recipe and searched for a sexy young idea to liven it up. I found it at  Smitten Kitchen (my favorite cooking blog)—a scone that incorporates pears and chocolate.

Chocolate! Can you imagine? I have lived a good long life believing that—outside of Cocoa-Puffs—chocolate was not to be ingested before noon.

Thank you Deb at Smitten Kitchen for giving me permission to add this forbidden ingredient to morning food and making an already good life even better.

Last Sunday morning while it was beautifully sunny here on the Mendocino Coast, I put together this recipe:

4 c. + 1 T. all-purpose flour (I substituted 1T. ground flaxseed for the 1T. flour)

2 T. sugar (plus more for sprinkling)

2T. baking powder

¾ lb. cold unsalted butter

2 t. salt

¾ c. diced dried Turkish Apricots

2 – 3-oz. bars endangered species dark chocolate with cacao nibs, cut into small chunks

4 large eggs

1 c. heavy cream

Okay, okay, I can hear some of you now. “Turkish Apricots are intended to be healthy. This recipe is a heart attack waiting to happen. It besmirches the name of Woodstock Foods and all of its affiliates. They will never send you a t-shirt after this.”

I’m taking your hand and gently patting it.

Now, now—you certainly wouldn’t make these scones every day. But today is an exception. Today I give you permission to love yourself enough to splurge on something warm and decadent, something that will bring you joy and make you happy to be alive. (Besides, Woodstock Foods has already put not one, but two t-shirts in the mail to me.)

Back to the recipe:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

DSC02927Combine all dry ingredients.

DSC02928With a pastry knife, cut the cold butter into the flour until it resembles the size of little peas.(You are going to add all of that butter. Yes, you are.)

Stir in the diced apricots and chopped chocolate.

DSC02930Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the heavy cream. (Do not cheat yourself and try to substitute low fat milk.) Add the eggs and lightly mix the wet ingredients together before incorporating them into the flour mixture. Knead it for a bit to make sure it’s well mixed.

DSC02933Divide the dough into two equal portions. On separate baking sheets, pat each into a round about ¾-in. thick.

DSC02934Cut each round into eight triangles. Separate these triangles in the baking sheet. Sprinkle each liberally with sugar. (Calm down. A little extra sugar this morning is not going to hurt you.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes. (I bake both batches at the same time on separate racks, rotating them after 12 minutes.)

The minute you take the scones out of the oven, make yourself a latte, cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy the golden, rich goodness of these delectable pastries. Share with others or wait until they cool, wrap well and put in the freezer so you can warm one up to eat whenever you feel like it.

DSC02939Be happy.


Turkish Apricots

One of my readers recently wondered about my connection to The Purity Market. She asked, “Does your husband work there?”

I wish!

If you click the About tab above, you will learn that I write about The Purity because I absolutely love the store.

This past Sunday, I was scrambling around looking for pinto beans, when I happened upon this display:DSC02897Curious, I bought Turkish Apricots, brought them home, tossed the package into the garden, and took this lovely photo:DSC02906I then took them into the house, opened the package, and conducted a taste test. I liked them. They lack the tangy bite that I find distasteful in dried apricots.They’re yummy, kind of like a fig, but without the dense fig taste.

The company that makes these is called Woodstock and they are Proud Supporters of American Farmland Trust.

Their display at The Purity has some other intriguing items that I plan to try. DSC02899DSC02900DSC02901DSC02902

DSC02589Disclosure: I do not have any affiliation with Woodstock. However, when I featured Taaka Vodka last July, the company was so thrilled that they sent me a t-shirt. (I wonder what I’d look like in a Woodstock t-shirt?)

Three Gifts for Under $5

alanaDevoted It Happened at Purity fan and first-class Purity clerk Alana became inspired by this blog’s frequent references to Taaka Vodka. (Either that or the number of 200 ml bottles she sells each day.)

On Valentine’s Day, she cobbled up this clever greeting:


Cost: $2.09 for the Taaka + 10-cents for the bag.

This one might work for Easter or perhaps to cheer up a sick friend:


$2.09 + $2.50 for the card. (The basket is not for sale, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could buy it?)

There are many occasions for which this would work:


The party’s at The Purity! $2.09/bottle + 25-cent toppers from the toy vending machine.

Thank you Alana! I hope you inspire others to share their Taaka Vodka gift ideas with It Happened at Purity.

The Best Gift Ever for Under $10

For this project, you’ll need:

  • 200ml bottle of Taaka Genuine Vodka located (for anti-theft purposes) behind the checkout counter at The Purity.
  • A bag of snack pack M&M’s (you can’t find these at The Purity; try Rite Aid).
  • Thin ribbon (you should already have some).
  • Hole punch (you should already have one).


1. Punch a hole in the corner of each pack of M&M’s.

2. Cut a 12-inch of longer length of ribbon.

3. Tie the ribbon securely around the neck of the bottle. Use the ribbon to string together  about four packs of M&M’s.

4. Tie the ribbon.

5. Flip the bottle over and repeat above steps on opposite side.

6. Cut long lengths of different color ribbon. Use scissors to curl each piece of ribbon. Secure the ribbon to the wreath with your original piece of ribbon. Curl that ribbon, too.

Voila! For less than $10 (the M&M’s will cost more than the vodka), here’s what you end up with:

Now you need to determine who’s going to get this great gift. I gave mine to a friend after her third (and youngest) child went off to college.