Growing up in Chicago, winter wasn’t my favorite. From constant frostbite warnings to random snowstorms that wouldn’t cease until May, it was safe to say that winter and I had a love-hate relationship. Whenever my family and I would venture outside, we’d make a whole ordeal of it before having to retreat inside again. We’d head to the rink to lace up our skates and hit the ice or stay warm by sitting inside a theater to watch a play that was in town.
With mild snow in Oregon compared to Illinois, the past few winters have looked a little different for me. A new place meant new traditions, so I’ve started making my own winter fun: hibernating. Hibernating is the perfect way to recharge and makes me appreciate the warm steam of a mug of hot chocolate, the colorful visions of an old holiday movie or the soft fabric of a fleece blanket keeping my feet warm. I love getting cozy on the couch and deciding to sleep all day or read for hours or make my favorite soup (chicken with wild rice, if you’re wondering). Winter is a season for those special and cozy moments with loved ones. Here are five ways to find comfort and joy at home in Oregon this winter season.
Get Cozy With All the Winter Essentials
Warm up your space with a fireplace and an artisan s’mores kit from Portland-based 1927 Smores, soft wool blankets from family-owned Pendleton, and a mindful item like a natural-wax blend candle from Portland-based Glory Skincare, a Black female-owned business that offers subscription skincare and wellness essentials (all of which make great local gifts that can be ordered online, by the way). Play music from Eugene-based House of Records, an independent shop where you can find old-school vinyl, cassettes (anyone remember those?), CDs and DVDs. Or green up your space by splurging on air-cleaning succulents, monsteras or string-of-heart plants at EcoVibe in Portland. If you need a pop of color to brighten your season, Coy & Co. florist shop in Portland offers a flower subscription and online ordering, and is sustainably certified, working to reduce the planet’s carbon footprint.
Treat Yourself to Self Care at Home
The winter season tends to dry out the skin, so take some time to try an at-home spa treatment to keep your skin soft and smooth and achieve the ultimate “me day.” Donna Roddvik, owner and licensed aesthetician with Hood River Skin Bar in Hood River, says that a little at-home love will go a long way. You can order one of her at-home spa kits, which include peel pads, cleansing gel, exfoliating moisturizer and a hydrating mask to keep your skin glowing. Take a long bath with the fragrance of natural lemongrass soap or whipped butter from Bodi Brand Soap, a Black-owned business based in Portland. Put some Phoenix-based Essential 3 essential oils in a diffuser to fill your home. Choose from different blends or a variety of essential oil aromas. End the day with tunes by some of Oregon’s top musicians with this playlist of local artists.
Get Your Craft On
Looking to start a new hobby this winter? In the cold, there’s nothing better than learning how to knit blankets, hats, and other items that will help to keep yourself and others warm. In Tillamook Tangled Yarns is where you’ll find Cashmerino, lambswool and alpaca wool to create blankets to snuggle in, hats to wear to protect your ears and scarves to protect your skin from the cold. Tillamook County is also known for its quilt making, ever since the early pioneers came to the Oregon Coast. If you feel like a little drive, check weather and road conditions before heading out and spend the day exploring the Tillamook Quilt Trail or Washington County Quilt Trail on a self-guided driving tour. The first of its kind on the West Coast, the trail features colorful quilt blocks mounted on barns and businesses throughout the county. Knitting or quilting is a great way to hibernate, allowing you to unwind and find a peaceful moment to create a beautiful work of art.
Enjoy an Indoor Escape
If you’re craving a wintry escape, head out for some brisk activity. Wallowa Valley Community Ice Rink in Enterprise, said to be the only unrefrigerated ice rink in Oregon, is free to skaters all season and stays open until the spring thaws the ice. In Southern Oregon, Ashland Rotary Centennial Ice Rink offers reserved family ice skating time, and after you’ve enjoyed an hour or two at the rink, you can walk over to Zoey’s Cafe for hot cocoa. If you prefer a different type of workout, kids and adults alike can work out at an indoor rock-climbing gym, with face coverings and 6 feet of physical distance required. Crux Climbing Gym in Eugene offers student-only and women-only climbing events, and Bend Rock Gym in Central Oregon offers after-school climbing for youths as well as adult mentorships.
Warm Up With a New Favorite Recipe
There’s nothing better than sharing a warm, home-prepared meal after a long day. Try a new recipe and spend quality time with your housemates or by yourself. Grab your favorite blanket and turn the day into an indoor picnic with drinks, flowers and your favorite TV show on in the background. Pair your meal with your favorite Oregon beverage. One great choice is the whimsical Nisse + Hygge seasonal red table wine by Leah Jorgensen Cellars in Newberg.
Named after the Danish word for coziness, “hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) can mean a lot of things,” Jorgensen says. “It can be like cooking dinner with a best friend or it can be sitting in a coffee shop. It’s usually about closeness, being close to friends and family, and doing things that are cozy, warm and make you feel good.”
For instance, this past year, Jorgensen started a new hygge tradition in her house. “My husband and I love to cook dinner together and have small groups of people over, and when COVID hit in March, we did an around-the-world tour — just the two of us,” she says. They spent the evening picking a destination from the news and finding food in their home to replicate a recipe from that culture, and ended the night by reading a poem from that country as well. “We did this for a month,” she says. “That was hygge.”
When it’s blustery out, find your favorite bottle of white wine (some to drink, some for the recipe) and make this smoked salmon chowder by Chef Rebecca Clark of Fairsing Vineyard in Yamhill.
Smoked Salmon Chowder
Courtesy of Chef Rebecca Clark of Fairsing Vineyard in Yamhill
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 large onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
6 oz chardonnay
16 oz seafood or fish stock
12 oz clam juice
12 oz water
5 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
5 cups whole milk, divided
2-½ tbsp flour
2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp fresh
1 tsp cayenne to taste
1 tsp salt
2-½ cups cream
1-½ lbs hot smoked salmon, shredded
Parsley, for garnish
Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until soft and starting to caramelize (or slightly brown). Add chardonnay to deglaze the pan. Continue to cook until the liquid has nearly evaporated. Add seafood stock, clam juice, water and potatoes. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Simmer potatoes until tender. (Don’t overcook potatoes — they continue to cook once milk is added.) Add four cups of milk, reserving the fifth cup to whisk with the flour in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to thicken the soup slightly. If a thicker chowder is preferred, add more flour. Once chowder is bubbling, add thyme, cayenne, salt and cream. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. When ready to serve, add smoked salmon. Taste and season as preferred. Add parsley to garnish. Pairs well with an Oregon chardonnay.