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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — December 2009

Blue Sky, Crisp Air and Mount St Helens: A Christmas Day on Snowshoes

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…Just like the ones I used to know…”

White Christmas is not my favorite holiday song. I’m more of a Silent Night kind of gal. I like the solitude of the song. But this year, with kids arriving on December 26, we decided we would go for the white stuff while exercising our snowshoes—and hearts, lungs and thighs—on Christmas Day.

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Skiing, camping, backpacking, snowshoeing, fill in your favorite expedition, why is the first trip of the season always such a struggle to get off the ground? Where are the mittens? Are these the boots that go with the snowshoes? What are we going to eat? Did you fill the gas tank? And on and on. We were determined to get out before the crowds on Christmas morning. No need to even think about it. The minutiae of the first trip slowed us down. And the crowds seeking snow like us? We would see.

By noon, we had gathered snowshoes, poles, coats, socks and more socks, mittens and hats, extra mittens and hats, Christmas lunch, maps, chains, shovel, cell phones (for an area with no service), layers of fleece and day packs with some percentage of the “10 essentials.” And, of course, the critical Sno-Park Permit. But more about that later.

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December 28, 2009   4 Comments

5.5 Reasons to Do a Cookie Exchange – Hint: It’s Not Just About the Cookies

I have a confession. I HATE to make cookies. I have never enjoyed mixing dough. I’m impatient when the little darlings are in the oven. And we have a vintage Wedgewood stove from the 1950s which is strong on design and collectability, but has a runaway thermostat. Turn your back and your cookies are deflagrating at 500+ degrees.

So why did I, a total morning person, stay up until midnight last night, mixing batch after batch of high-cal morsels, starting over with brand new ingredients (thanks for going to the store, Gary) after discovering a weevil, artfully (sort of) twisting red and white dough into candy cane shapes, while totally trashing my kitchen with powdered sugar and wayward flour? Because I LOVE my neighbors and am willing to wrangle with my oven and stay up past my usual 9:15 bedtime to hang out with them at a cookie exchange. And, of course, it was worth it.

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Our neighbors Caitlyn, Jerrad, and Ivy are incredibly creative. They set up a lovely gathering with boxes, ribbon and decorative stamps for packaging the cookies plus lots of appetizers and drinks. With each of us bringing six dozen cookies, the table was thoroughly bedecked with holiday treats.

Why do a cookie exchange? Our neighbors came up with lots of reasons. Here are 5.5 of our favorites:

1. You get to find out what is happening in the neighborhood. Who is performing in concert with her madrigal group? Who is having squirrel problems? Why was a neighbor taken to the hospital in an ambulance? You don’t learn these things in the newspaper or on Facebook.

2. You get to see how much the children have grown. Our little exchange had a 3.5-year-old, a toddler and two babies, including a month-old new neighbor who mostly slept through the evening. Our neighborhood is attracting young families. It’s fun to see how much their kids change over the years.

3. You get to welcome new neighbors. We were delighted that our newest neighbors joined us.

4. You see your neighbors’ latest remodeling projects, and get ideas for your own home. Most of our houses are 80 to 100-years-old. Believe me, we are all regularly updating and looking for cool ideas.

5. You can escape from reality tv to real life. Getting to know your neighbors is reality, not the latest television show.

5.5. In the words of the Cookie Monster, “Cookie!” Somebody said “A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.” We’ll be slowly savoring ours so we should have a balanced diet through Christmas. Thank you, Caitlyn, Jerrad, and Ivy!

December 20, 2009   6 Comments

36 Hours in Camas

Sometimes the best getaway is close to home, very close to home. Downtown Camas is only 20 minutes from our house.  For a weekend in November, it was a perfect escape to shop, eat and celebrate our wedding anniversary at the new Camas Hotel. (More details on this lovely inn later.)

The lovely Camas Hotel

Friday Night 7 p.m. K’Syrah Catering Wine and Bistro 212 NE 4th Avenue. K’Syrah is offering a tasting of Thanksgiving wines – perfect for the Friday night before the all the holiday gluttony begins. For $10 per person, we taste five excellent wines – Mercer Pinot Gris 2008, Primarius Pinot Noir 2007, La Quercia Montepulciano 2008, Ridge Three Valleys 2007 and Terre Gaie Sparkling white wine. We like them all but, darn, have to make a choice. We select the sparkling wine to offer with the dessert course on Thanksgiving. K’Syrah also offers three-course fixed price dinners on Friday nights. Menus are posted in the Web site.

Saturday Morning 10 a.m. There are a LOT of shops to explore so we start with a hearty breakfast at Natalia’s Cafe, 437 NE 4th Avenue. My veggie scramble with home potatoes is very good but Gary’s strawberry blintzes with whipped cream wins the best breakfast prizes for taste and presentation. Don’t miss the photo.

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December 8, 2009   6 Comments