A Nod to Sun Hats

19 06 2014

IMG_6312-2The classic sun hat never goes out of style. This floppy beach hat’s vintage appeal looks just as charming accompanying a modern outfit or swimsuit. The traditional brim design ranges from four to seven inches wide, however, hats now come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials. Its original wide-brimmed design shades a person’s face, ears and shoulders from the sun, and most importantly, from harmful ultraviolet rays (UV).

IMG_1945-2Sun visors or mesh ball caps cannot offer nearly the same protection. Cancer awareness reveals extremely lethal melanomas are found on the scalp and neck, with twice the death rate of melanomas found on the face, ears, and other skin locations. Melanoma on the scalp is one of the most common but least diagnosed cancers. A classic wide-brimmed hat not only is super cute but also is a super effective sun protector.

IMG_6322I love my foldable, wrinkle-proof sun hat and try to remember to pack it along for outings. Admittedly, I’m more of a bandana or handkerchief-tied-on-the-head kind of girl, but with recent cancer studies and a penchant for anything vintage, I’ll be wearing my wide-brimmed hat more often. Join me!

 

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Pudding Dirt Cups

9 06 2014

 

IMG_5267-2The arrival of summer in the Pacific Northwest kicks off easy and fun snack season for the kids. Mine spend their time to and from water, on and off skateboards, back and forth with friends, and in and out of the house for snacks. Between keeping track of everyone and cleaning their tracks, I need to prepare and clean up snacks quickly. I’m sharing one of their favorites, The Pudding Dirt Cup. My version is the easiest! I’ll also give you a few variations on it.

IMG_5265My Pudding Dirt Cup is the easiest because it requires minimal steps and clean up, and only three ingredients:

  • Chocolate pudding cups
  • Gummy worms candy
  • Packaged crisp chocolate cookies

First, place the cookies in a sealed baggie and crush them into coarse crumbs using whatever resources you have nearby—even your hands. If you have cookies with frosting sandwiched between, it’s fine to leave it in because it gives your “dirt” some white speckles that resemble potting soil. Then, peel off the pudding cup lid and sprinkle your cookie dirt completely over the top of the pudding. Next, stick one to three gummy worms into and across the cookie dirt so they come out of and crawl over the soil. Last, serve excited kiddos!

IMG_5271-2If you want a more authentic container, make the Pudding Dirt Cup in a mini plant pot. If you use clay, due to toxins, I recommend scooping the pudding into a clear glass bowl nearly the same width as the pot and setting the bowl into the clay pot. If the glass is too shallow, then build it up underneath to the height of the rim of the pot. To adjust the amount of pudding needed, either combine multiple pudding cups or make your own.

If you want pebbles or grass on top of your soil, use chocolateIMG_5280 rocks or shredded coconut dyed green with food coloring. Instead of gummy worms, stick a flower into the pudding. If you add a real flower, however, use a nontoxic variety and wrap its stem in clear tape before it touches the food.

My final tip is to think outside the pudding cup container for occasions when those extra touches are worth the extra hassle. I’ve seen a dirt birthday cake in the back of a toy dump truck. It was adorable!

 
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The Adirondack Chair

15 05 2014

IMAG0091-1I love the Adirondack Chair. It’s comfortable. It’s functional. It’s classical. It beckons throughout any season to sit, relax, and set a steaming or refreshing drink on its signature wide armrests. The Adirondack Chair didn’t originate from the Pacific Northwest, but we’ve embraced it wholly on this coast. Whether the Adirondack Chair sits at a lodge in the Cascade Mountain Range or a cabin on the Pacific Northwest Coast, I slide into its slanted seat and unwind. In those moments, life slows down and my senses awaken.

We have Thomas Lee to thank for these masterpieces. Mr. Lee vacationed on Lake Champlain in Westport, New York in the Adirondack Mountain Range. IMG_1190-1He invented a chair in 1903 for his family who tested his designs and helped him perfect the “Westport Plank Chair.” He cut eleven pieces of wood from one plank, slanted the seat and back to keep upright on the uneven mountain ground, and made extra wide armrests to accommodate a drink. He shared his plans with his carpenter friend, Harry Bunnell, who promptly stole the design, started his own business, and received the U.S. patent for the “Westport Plank Chair” by 1905. Mr. Bunnell signed each chair, and vintage Bunnell chairs now sell for thousands of dollars. So, we also have him to thank for making these chairs public. Irving Wolpin modified and patented the modern Adirondack Chair in 1938.

Anytime you come across a Westport Plank, Adirondack or any other version, grab a cup (plates work well, too!), take a seat, and absorb your environment.

 

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Canning Jar Creativity

2 05 2014

IMG_4914I am sold out to canning jars, also called Mason jars. I employ canning jars in so many ways that they hold a place on an entire kitchen cabinet shelf. I began using these glass jars as food storage containers to get away from harmful plastics and for my family to identify our food easily. I discover creative uses by trial and anticipate many more discoveries. I’ll share some practical ways to use Mason jars beyond their intended use. The two most common brands in the United States are Ball and Kerr. I like that they have lids, can withstand heat and cold, are safe for food, are affordable and accessible, come in several sizes, and exude a shabby chic vibe.

 Canning Jar Uses (so far!)

  •  Transporting and serving dips, salsa, dressings, and saucesIMG_4917
  • Drinking cups
  • Taking and microwaving food at work
  • Storing food in the refrigerator or pantry
  • Individual dessert cups
  • Butter dishes, especially for homemade varieties
  • Condiment bowls
  • Mixing bowls and jars for homemade salad dressing
  • Containers for crafts or toiletries
  • Flower vases
  • Candleholders

 

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Lemon Cream Cheese

5 04 2014

IMG_4675As spring brings warmer days and brighter vegetation, we gravitate toward lighter meals to mimic nature. What better ingredient to refresh our palates than lemon? Lemon is a feast for our eyes, noses, and taste buds, adding zip to our dishes on all accounts. I decided to share this easy Lemon Cream Cheese recipe as I spread it on a blueberry bagel for my daughter’s school lunch. The recipe equals one cup, but you can use any amount of cream cheese and adjust the lemon and sugar to your taste preference.

 

Lemon Cream CheeseIMG_8371

  •  8 oz. cream cheese, softened or whipped
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest entirely
  • 3 T. powdered (confectioners’) sugar

 

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Spring Gleaming

6 03 2014

IMG_4022With the emerging buds outside my window and a flip of the calendar comes another change of seasons indoors. I fully enjoy each season in the Pacific Northwest, so when one nears its end, I get antsy for the next. This celebration of seasons displays its evidence most in my home. Before you imagine kitschy dustibles littering my cave, I’ll admit I’m a minimalist on the subject of décor. Or, possibly I might just be a lazy duster–fewer things to lift.

Many years ago, I heard a quote from English designer Jasper Conran that planted a seed in me. Conran said, “A house should change. It should never stay static. If it does, it’s symbolic of your life.” I’m not afraid of change, and in fact, crave it sometimes. I do, however, love stability and predictability. I marry these seemingly opposing desires by changing up my environment with familiar objects. I do buy something new once in awhile, but the familiarity of heirlooms, gifts, and children’s crafts awaking from storage puts a song in my heart and a spring in my step. (Couldn’t resist that last comment!)

Right now, it’s all about spring in my home with light colors, flora, and eggs. I say goodbye to the beloved stark branches outdoors and inwardly cheer on their emerging buds.

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Oregon’s Wild Food Industry

22 02 2014

pearsOregon hangs out in the Pacific Northwest part of the United States of America and receives scant global recognition for its food. When the world thinks of famous chefs, fabulous cuisine, and flourishing gourmets, Oregon remains off the radar. Oregonians, however, claim a rich epicurean history and a spot within the top five states producing crops. Families and foodies know that Oregon leads the wild food industry by offering the best quality raw food in the world because its crops mature slowly in the mild climate. These include melons, pears, grapes, berries, mushrooms, potatoes, onions, nuts, and over 200 additional crops.

The diverse geography breaks Oregon into three crop-growing districts: The Oregon Coast, the Willamette Valley, and Eastern and Southern Oregon. Plant-based crops like trees, herbs, wheat, and grass seeds find the most ideal land in the world right here. Seafood such as fish and shellfish sustained Oregonians for centuries and continues baiting Pacific Northwest palates and beyond.

This trendy farm-to-table movement isn’t a new concept in Oregon, where small farmers’ markets prosper because locals want to know the origin of their food. Eating fresh by adding little to the food allows natural flavors to shine through and provides a healthier diet. This idea influences restaurateurs who buy locally grown ingredients and serve them raw or wild. Another term I heard for this is “unfussy.” I like that; it sums up Oregonians perfectly.

The late chef and food writer James Beard was born in Oregon and became a culinary figure by the mid 20th century. Beard appeared on the very first cooking show on television in the 1940s called I Love to Eat, 15 years before his fan Julia Child stepped in front of the camera. He founded the James Beard Cooking School in 1955 with a passion for teaching clean cooking and pulling the American society out of its Jell-O-mold fog. Beard advocated the farm-to-table philosophy along with preparing and eating the fare with others, so we gain the most enjoyment from it. Beard detested industrial agriculture popularized after WWII saying, “Unfortunately, we’re living in a convenience age where people merely eat to add fodder to the body.” Oregon’s leadership in the current wild food industry would make Beard proud.

To learn more about Oregon’s food history, check out the first uniquely Pacific Northwest cookbook from 1885 called The Web-Foot Cook Book.

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