Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Winter in the PNW

It has been a wonderful fall at SilverMoon and we are now starting to get excited about the winter and winter holidays. Winter in the Pacific NorthWest generally means rain, long dark nights, short grey days, continual scarf-wearing, and galoshes. Unfortunately, for a lot of folks this is also the start of SAD season, it is a horrible season to be homeless in (if ever there is a "good" season), and it is a time of great consumerism. Perhaps it is related to folks choosing indoor spaces like the mall to walk around in because it is warmer than the park, but people will often spend more money in winter than in summer seasons. Some folks even get into debt over the holidays with the intention of paying it off after the New Year. Talk about New Year's Resolution! :-(

So, in thinking about this winter season, my first winter in my very own home, I wanted to set some ground rules to establish our very own set of traditions and celebrations that felt true to us.
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Rule 1. Go Outside.
Yes, it is grey and chilly and wet for most of the winter in the Pacific Northwest. No, that doesn't give you an excuse to hibernate inside all season.
Get outdoors, work up a sweat, take in the view from the top of a mountain. Get some sunshine even if it is only brief.

Thankfully, folks in the Pacific Northwest are great outdoors enthusiasts. There's plenty of camping, hiking, kayaking, and neighborhood events to go to even in the winter.

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." - Sir Rannulph Fiennes

Rule 2. Plan for Spring.
What's worse than day after day of grey skies? Thinking it will never end.

Instead of being sad that there is no garden at the moment, I'm actively using this time to plan out the garden in spring. Thinking about those clear blue skies and looking online at all the flowers and veggies we could set out in the yard really makes me smile. If you have a garden, then right now is the time to think about what plants have worked well for you in the past, what seeds you have stored, what plants you'd like to grow in the spring and set your schedule so you know when to start sprouting those tiny green wonders!

Another great aspect of this climate is that it actually allows for winter gardening if you are so inclined. Winter pansies, primrose, hellebore, and camellias are great flowers to keep the winter blues at bay. I even brought an amaryllis and primrose indoors to brighten up my other indoor plants that are currently wintering-over.

If you don't have a garden, think about what events or things you can look forward to in the spring. Is there a place you'd like to visit? Someone you are hoping to see? Make those plans over the winter to pull yourself out of the grey winter mindset.

Rule 3. Eat well.
Winter is the season of Yum! Mashed potatoes, collard greens, beans, fresh baked breads and other goodies - the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, all that baking, butter, and  curling up with good books can attribute to the New Year's Resolution Syndrome of body shaming and sadness.

But eating well doesn't mean eating just whatever, it means eating what's good for you - both for your body and your mind.

I could write a whole post on great winter meals and ingredients, and maybe I will, but for now here's a list of some of my favorite winter-friendly veggies and fruits that keep the blues (an the pounds) at bay.
  • Pomegranates
  • Oranges, lemons, tangelos, and other citrus
  • Winter Squash - acorn and butternut are my favorites
  • Dark Greens like kale, collards, and mustard greens
  • Beans and lentils
  • The three C's - cabbage, cauliflower, and carrots
  • Oatmeal
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts - macadamia, walnut, pecan, and hazel roasted over a campfire (YUM!)
  • Mushrooms
  • Persimmons - check your ethnic grocery store
  • Edamame - steamed with a little bit of salt this is a great movie-at-home snack
Rule 4. Do good.

Choose something that's important to you and work on it. Doing good is about engaging those things that feed your soul or sense of self and feeding the spirit of others as well

For me, its homelessness. America and Seattle in particular have a huge homelessness problem. Seattle ranks 4th in the nation for homeless population.* There are lots of reasons for it, and each person (yes, these are people not just statistics and that's an important thing to remember) has a story of how they ended up on the streets. The city has lots of reasons for why their 10-years to 0-homeless plan fell through, but the fact remains that there are so many homeless people in Seattle that the city just announced a state of emergency. You can't walk two blocks in this city without coming across a homeless person, a tent, a tarp, a cardboard box that someone has been using to try and get shelter in.

Go through your closet - as you get ready to store those summer tanks, take a look at your sock drawer as well. Homeless people spend a lot of time on their feet and a pair of clean socks in good condition is one of the easiest and greatest gifts you can give.

Say Hi. Acknowledge that they exist just as you would anyone else on the street. Pretending you don't see them doesn't make them go away. If you can't or don't feel comfortable talking to strangers - a smile would be nice. :-)

Your time - volunteer if you can, donate to an organization you believe in if you can't. If you can't volunteer know, no worries, lots of people try to volunteer in the winter months and some organizations have a hard time managing all of the well-meaning volunteers, consider signing up to volunteer in the summer months when it is often harder for those organizations to find the volunteers they need.

Study by US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Rule 5. Celebrate.
Fight off those long dark nights with merriment and reflection. If you are religious, then celebrate your gods and traditions. If you aren't religious or don't have traditions - find what calls to you and make your own path.
I fall into the 'make your own path' category and making these 5 rules for winter is part of forging my own way through the season. There are some upcoming things I'm looking forward to -
November 11th - Veterans Day is also Free State and National Park Day (see Rule #1)
November 11th - 15th - HUMP!
November 26th - Thanksgiving - Seattle Turkey Trot
November 27th - Parade and Star Lighting
November 27th - Jan 3rd - Wildlights at the Woodland Park Zoo
November 27th - Dec 28th - The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall
November 28th - Magic in the Market at Pike Place
November 28th - Jan 2nd - Garden d'Lights in Bellevue

Want to go for a walk but it's rainy and cold outside? Not interested in fighting holiday crowds and consumerism at the mall? Check out the museums! Many even offer free-visit days so you can just go and enjoy yourself without the signs, hawkers, and crazy crowds. Check out freemuseumday.org for your local listing.
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These are the rules that work for me in making the winter a holiday rather than a horror. What works for you? What are some things you look forward to as the temperature drops? 

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