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Celebrating People, Places & the Good Life in SW Washington State
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Posts from — June 2012

Knowing Your Neighbors Can Save Your Life – 9 Ways to Get Neighborly

Do you know your neighbors? Many studies document the value of  knowing your neighbors to overall health and well-being. Neighboring can save your life.

A University of Minnesota study  found that older adults who have had a stroke have a better survival rate if they have a “cohesive neighborhood” as defined by neighbor interactions. The incidence of strokes did not differ but survival rate did.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at data from 148 studies and found a correlation between social relationships and death rates. Looking at research on more than 300,000 men and women from developed countries, they found that those without social connections  had a 50% higher odds of death during the follow up period of the study. (The researchers reported that this is about the same mortality difference as between smokers and non-smokers.)

Watch this two-minute video on the impact of knowing your neighbors as found by the Arizona Health Survey:

Who’s on your block?
Unfortunately, the benefits of neighboring aren’t always making it to or appreciated on the street. In 2010, the Pew Research Center released a report on how neighbors communicate. 28% knew none of their neighbors by name. 46% of Americans talked face-to-face with neighbors about community issues in the prior 12 months, so more than half did not. A full year is a long time to go without talking face-to-face with a neighbor about life in your shared community.

While there are a growing number of people keeping track of neighborhood activities via digital tools like blogs, email, Facebook, and other social media, can that really take the place of a chat over the back fence or a holiday gathering of neighbors?

Unfortunately, opportunities to neighbor have been designed out of our communities. We pull up to our garages, open the door remotely and enter the house without any human interactions. And what happened to front porches in close proximity to sidewalks? Television and computers, of course, have also sucked up time and relationships. What’s a person who wants to know her or his neighbors to do?

When “Neighbor” is a verb
We’re lucky. “Neighbor” is a verb on our block. Throughout the year, we find lots of reasons to gather – holidays, bottling of a new batch of beer, root beer float weather – friendships and community are built year round.

Here are a few ideas for building community and relationships with your neighbors. Feel free to add your own to the comment section.

Chinese or Lunar New Year – Celebrate Chinese New Year by inviting your neighbors out for dinner at your favorite Chinese restaurant to celebrate the New Year. Call ahead and reserve a large table. No one has to clean house or do the dishes afterwards. Wear red for good luck. Gung hay fat choy!

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Our Neighbors

St. Patrick’s Day – Our neighbor, Susan, invites the neighbors in for Irish Coffee, soda bread and shamrock cookies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. By March, we’ve all spent way too much time indoors. It’s a nice opportunity to see everyone, share catch up on family news and view how much the children have grown.

Summer potluck – Open your yard or get permission to close your street for a neighborhood potluck. Collect ample picnic tables and ask everyone to bring their own chairs. We did a potluck for 20 neighbors and other friends last year with an Italian theme and assigned courses but it doesn’t have to be that formal.

Ready to serve the neighbors

A few of 20 or so neighbors gathering for summer floats

Root beer floats – Each summer, we invite our neighbors over for root beer floats on the patio. It is a really simple, affordable and fun way to entertain. We still haven’t reached consensus on whether you put the ice cream or root beer into the glass first. Either way, they taste great!

Halloween –After the little (and not so little) goblins have stopped ringing doorbells, our neighbor, Janis, has the neighbors in for hot cider and gingerbread. It’s a lovely way to catch up on news of the block and wind down after a wild evening of costumes and candy.

Holiday cookie exchange

Holiday Cookie bake – This takes some preparation but is a fun way to kick off the holidays. Invite neighbors to make a large batch of their favorite cookies. Each participant will then choose a collection of cookies. Our neighbor, Caitlyn, had cute boxes and ribbons prepared for us. See 5.5 Reasons to do a Cookie Bake.

Year-round Opportunities

The Super Scrabble Board - Quadruple Points and Extra Q's and Z's!

Scrabble – Invite your neighbors over for a Scrabble “tournament.” Ask them to bring their Scrabble games and divide the group into tables. Another option is to play “Super Scrabble.” When I heard that Super Scrabble existed, I hustled (okay, I asked my husband to hustle) to a toy store to buy the game. It has an oversized board and extra letters (2 “z’s” and “q’s”!). We play Singing Scrabble with it with six people. After you make a word, you have to sing a song related to it. (Yes, adult beverages help to “loosen” the vocal cords and singing inhibitions!) Scrabble lovers should really enjoy the version of the game. Banagrams, Bunco, there are lots of options.

Book group - great use of a deck on a summer day!

A key ingredient to a successful gathering!

Book group – One friend lives on a block with its own book group. Take a poll of your neighbors to see if there is interest and the types of books they prefer to read.

Cooking up hops for a new brew

Happy Brewing or Happy Hour – We seem to have lots of home brewers in the neighborhood. They have created the “29th Street Brewers Guild” which gathers to help bottle (and taste) beer. Our neighbor, Jerrad, is especially generous with beer tastings. Another friend lives on a cul-de-sac where neighbors raise a flag to say happy hour has started. Consider the possibilities!

One of my heroes, the late Jane Jacobs (author of Death and Life of Great American Cities) wrote “In real life, only from the ordinary adults of the city sidewalks do children learn – if they learn it at all – the first fundamental of successful city life: People must take a modicum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other.”

We are so in this world together. It’s up to us to be the congenial neighbors we’ve been waiting for, and to pass on those neighboring skills to our children and grandchildren.

June 26, 2012   No Comments

Garlic and Eggs, Blues and Brews and Much More This June!

Summer is coming and the weekends are filling up. Here are festivals and other fun activities to add to your June schedule. Have fun out there!

June 1-August 30Architectural Walking Tours –  The Clark County Historical Museum is offering many walking tours with a variety of themes. These are held every Friday and every other Saturday through August. Check out the calendar here.

June 5WordFest  – Longview, 6 p.m. to 8  p.m. WordFest is a monthly gathering of local writers and readers. On June 5, WordFest will be meeting at the Electric Bean coffee shop, 946 Washington Way (Washington Way and 10th Avenue) in Longview, Readers will be poet and novelist Mike Strom; retired physician Dan Roberts who will read from his medical thriller VRSA SYNDROME and writer Robin Weitzen who will read from a novel in progress. An open mic will follow.


June 6Opening Night Beaches Summertime Cruisin’  – Portland International Raceway (PIR). Okay, ZEST never sends people south of the Columbia. This IS a blog about SW Washington, after all. However, this is an exception. Beaches Cruisin’ events raise thousands of dollars for community organizations north of the river. Check out the complete Cruisin’ schedule with non-profits that will benefit from the events. So go ahead and scoot across the I-5 bridge! Every Wednesday night through the end of September.  Classic cars, food, music and lots of fun. Pre-73 Classics, Hot Rods & Customs. $8 general public entry. $5 per show ride with one passenger. Check out this fun Cruisin’ video.

June 8 and 22The Urban Growers Market –  2315 Main Street, Uptown Village in Vancouver. This is a local farmers market geared to the backyard grower and small farmer. Only local produce is sold. Food vendors, arts and crafts, live music and children’s activities, too.

June 9National Get Outdoors Days  Local events will be happening from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site  and will include Smokey the Bear, Woodsy Owl, Ranger Rick and an 1840s Fur Trapping Camp.

Tasting at the Westport Winery

June 9Fleur de Lis Festival –  Westport Winery, Westport. Enjoy this well-programmed festival which includes Art in the Vines, local cheese samplings, live jazz with the Electric Park Jazz Band and Fleur de Lis French Onion Soup. And, of course, don’t forget the wonderful wines of Westport Winery.

June 15 (through Aug 25)Birds of Prey at Skamania Lodge –     Fridays  5 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Raptor House provides free educational programs with their Birds of Prey on the lawn of the hotel. Times may vary. For more information, please call their concierge at 800.221.7117.

June 14-17Planters Days  – Woodland  Planters Days is a four day festival celebrating the completed construction of the dikes along the Columbia and Lewis Rivers preventing the annual flooding in the Woodland area. Ninety-years-old this year, this is the longest continuously running civic celebration in the State of Washington. Lots happening with a parade, vendors, frog jumping, and a bed race. Details here.

June 15-16Doggie Olympic Games – No matter what the heritage of your dog, you can participate in this Long Beach dog show and prove that he or she is a champion. Dogs of all ages (except puppies under four months), sizes and abilities have a chance to compete. On the beach.

June 16Who’s Your Daddy? Beer Festival – Taste craft beers at this pre-Father’s Day event at Turtle Park (7th and Main) in downtown Vancouver. Ticket price: $15.00 includes commemorative tasting glass and 6 sample tokens. 21 and over only.

June 16-1731st Northwest Garlic Festival – Ocean Park continues it’s garlicky history with garlic food, garlic costumes and garlic crafts. Lots of entertainment. Wilson Park at 258th and Sandridge Road.  Free!

June 17Vancouver USA Marathon – Here is your chance to either prove your shins have what it takes to be a marathoner OR to cheer on those who do. Last year more than 3,000 participants from 40 states and six countries were part of the event. Includes a marathon, half-marathon, 5K event and children’s event. No registrations are accepted on the day of the race so get signed up! Lots happening all weekend. Don’t miss the after-party! Produced by Energy Events.

Curtis Salgado

June 22-23Gorge Blues and Brews Festival –    The 19th annual Festival will be held at the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson. Hometown brewery Walking Man will be pouring great beer. Headliners include Curtis Salgado, Kevin Selfe and the Tornadoes, and Lisa Mann and her Really Good Band. $15 admission.

The famous egg in Winlock

June 22-24Winlock Egg Day Festival – Winlock The parade starts at 11 a.m. June 23 with the theme “Home is Where the Egg Is.” The festival will include an Egg Day Run and royalty. Check out this charming 2010 video about the World Largest Egg and Winlock.

June 23Junior Symphony of Vancouver –   7:30 p.m. The Junior Symphony will be led by Conductor Collin Heade and will include the music of Handel, Lully, Richard Meyer and others. Vancouver First Church of God, 3300 NE 78th Street. $10. Tickets available at the door.

Glass garden sculptures from a past fair.

June 23-24Recycled Arts Festival – Vancouver. One of the most creative events of the year happens in Esther Short Park on the last weekend of June. For a preview, take a look at this ZEST blog post from the 2010 Festival.

See you out there in Southwest Washington!


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June 3, 2012   1 Comment