Cynthia Geary sits on the dock behind her lakeside house in Issaquah, Wash., as ducks paddle nearby and the Cascade Mountains gleam in the distance. "It's the most beautiful place I've ever lived," she says. "We couldn't have this in L.A."

Which is why Geary, 36, who played ditzy teen waitress Shelly Tambo Vincoeur for six seasons on CBS's Northern Exposure, decided to remain in Washington State—a stand-in for the quirky show's Alaskan setting—when Exposure ended in 1995. Now she's content just to nest with her husband, Robert Coron, 39, a commercial real estate broker, and their 17-month-old daughter Olivia.

Not coincidentally the actress says her favorite moment on the show was when Shelly had a baby by her 40-years-older spouse, Holling (John Cullum). "That's the first time I ever started feeling maternal," she says. "I thought, 'Maybe this is something I want to do.' "

"I think she's getting more maternal, taking Olivia to play classes," says Coron, who met Geary on a blind date in L.A. in 1990 and married her four years later. For fun, the couple water ski and snowboard. "I kind of just like being normal," Geary says. Still, she has done occasional TV guest shots (The Outer Limits), and last year she optioned a novel that she hopes to produce as a movie someday. The title? Southern Exposure