What are you thankful for?
It’s a question we all ponder together his time of year. And while my family, friends and good health top my list, I have loads of gratitude for all of my favorite Northwesty things, too. Like the fresh-plucked chanterelles at my farmers’ market last weekend on which dirty fir needles still cling, and the verdant green lowland forests that are somehow more enchanting in the chilly rain of late autumn, and the open fields of the Skagit flats that host thousands of wintering Snow Geese who migrate here all the way from Russia’s Wrangel Island northwest of the Bering Strait.
Over the past few years I’ve taught myself to stop and smell the nootka roses.
You see, like a few hundred million other people of earth, I began keeping a Gratitude Journal a few years back when Oprah explained how it changed her life. (I use a basic lined moleskin notebook for my Gratitude Journal. You can also get a notebook designed to be a Gratitude Journal.) It’s a simple concept where at the end of every day you jot down five things you are grateful for from the day. You have to do all five-that’s part of the process. And it’s not always easy. Sometimes my list has had very consequential things on it like when my husband got a raise at work last month, or when my friend who has cancer got an “excellent prognosis” recently. But most days, my list is much more pedestrian, like “I’m grateful that the counter lady at the bakery was super nice when I told her my son is allergic to eggs” or “CUBS WIN!”
When I first started my Gratitude Journal, I had to mine my memory of the day to get all the way up to five. And then, a few weeks in, something happened. I was suddenly feeling grateful about everything. I appreciated the buttery flakiness of my croissant, the breathtaking beauty of the Seattle sunrise, the birds at my feeder.
Through all this gratitude, I found that I was a happier person.
I’m not sure what Oprah would say about that, but I know what my other lifestyle guru Martha would say: “It’s a good thing.”
If you’ve been on the fence about starting a Gratitude Journal, I encourage you to try it. It’s easy, takes just a few minutes every day, and has made a difference in my life.
Here’s a little list of cool Northwesty stuff to be grateful for this November.
Don’t Cook for Thanksgiving! Nowhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner this year, or just want a change of pace? Some years we skip the family gathering and travel locally over the holiday weekend (it’s a great time to travel if you like uncrowded trails and short ferry lines!). But that doesn’t mean skipping the stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Oh, no. Here are a few of our favorite destinations for a buffet Thanksgiving dinner:
Lake Quinault Lodge, Olympic Peninsula, 11:30am-7pm. They set up a huge buffet table in the grand lodge lobby, and you can reserve a table in the Roosevelt dining room or take your turkey by the crackling fire with a view of the placid lake. Reservations are recommended, $42 per adult and $19 for kids. You don’t need to be a guest at the lodge to have the buffet; the last time we came for Thanksgiving we actually stayed next door at the Rainforest Resort Village.
Rosario Resort & Spa, Orcas Island, 2-6pm. $60 for adults, $35 for older children, kids 5 and under free, reservations are a must. The Mansion restaurant features traditional Thanksgiving dishes and sides with a highbrow culinary twist. An added bonus in your trip to Orcas Island in November is you can hike the trail around Mountain Lake or to the beach at Obstruction Pass and not see a single other soul.
Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, 1-7pm, reservations are a must, (503) 272-3267. Thanksgiving dinner features a special menu of five different main courses, plus all the wonderful starters, sides and desserts. $86 per person, $28 ages 4–11 $28, 3 & under free.
Head to the Willamette Valley for Wine Tasting weekend. Even the smallest craft wineries with the most relaxed tasting rooms open their doors for this special Wine Country Thanksgiving tasting event. From Gaston to Veneta, more than 130 wineries throughout the Willamette Valley will offer tastings from Friday, November 23 to Sunday, November 25, 2018 (though some are closed Sunday). Wineries are open 11am – 5pm unless otherwise noted. Many wineries charge a tasting fee, but the fee is sometimes refunded if you buy a few bottles of wine. We use this opportunity to stock our wine cabinet with lots of different local wines for the upcoming holiday season. If you head to the Willamette Valley for Wine Country Thanksgiving, bring your identification, some cash for tasting fees, and have a designated driver.
Hike on a Rainy Day. Are drizzly skies washing away your hiking plans? Some trails are best hiked in the rain! So go ahead and strap on those (waterproof) hiking boots–here are low-lying hiking trails that are glorious when pelted with rain and shrouded in mist. Some of these hikes meander alongside rivers that swell, tumble and churn more with rainfall, or pass gushing waterfalls that only dribble in summer. And still others are just more colorful and enchanting in wet weather when lichen is glistening and moss is spongier.
Dig for your dinner. November 22nd is the official start to razor clamming season on the Northwest coast, and the tide sets the table. The learning curve for digging up your own tasty razor clams is not at all steep, and even little kids can get in on the action. Our razor clamming guide tells you how to dig for clams, which beaches to head to, and when to do it (hint: it’s often done by headlamp!).
See returning salmon! Piper’s Creek in Seattle’s Carkeek Park hosts the return of hundreds of chum and coho salmon every year in the late fall. On weekends during the annual salmon run, volunteer Salmon Stewards mingle with visitors alongside the creek to chat about the salmon’s life cycle. It’s a truly Pacific Northwest experience to watch the salmon thrash their way through the creek. Their fate is grim: after spawning eggs in the creek bed, they’ll die, and then the salmon life cycle begins all over again. Weekends November 4 to December 3, 11am–2pm. There’s a special celebration happening on Sunday November 18 with warm beverages, refreshments, and music to welcome the salmon back home. Carkeek Park is located at 950 NW Carkeek Park Rd. in north Seattle.