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Arts, Crafts & Motherhood

  • Writer's pictureJessie Desmond

Wintergreen is considered a Christmas plant due to it's fragrance, taste, and coloration. It's also almost completely edible.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Other names: Boxberry, American Wintergreen, Checkerberry

Plant type: Perennial, ground cover

Zones: 3-8, winter hardy

Growing: Partial sun, well-drainage soil

Flowering: Summer months, pink and white flowers

Size: 4-8 inches tall, up to 12 inches wide

Planting: Outside, inside, planters, in the ground - all good

Plant Use: This is not a mint plant, but has a fragrance and taste that we commonly associate with mint. The leaves can be used to make wintergreen tea and wintergreen oil. Wintergreen oil is typically added to food and candy, popularly chewing gum. The berries are edible, but have a menthol taste that might not make them a favorite berry.

Fragrance: The plant itself is very fragrant. If you enjoy the smell of wintergreen, you might want to keep a potted plant inside. It is abundantly fragrant and you may need to move it room to room to avoid an overwhelming odor. As an outdoor garden plant this could be incorporated as a fragrant, pet-friendly plant around seating areas and pet use areas.

Toxicity: None. Pet safe.



  • Writer's pictureJessie Desmond

It's December 18th and you're in a panic for last minute gift items. Don't worry, the elves at Good Cheer have some ideas for you.

1 - Gardener Pack

If someone is a gardener, get them ready for the upcoming growing season with the new Baker Creek Seed Catalog (find at Barnes & Noble) and 1 or 2 seed starter trays (find at Home Depot or Lowes or local gardening shop). You can always add to this pack with additional gardening things. Let them order their own seeds. You can pick up some accoutrements like new gardening gloves or a new trowel or something. If they are interested in composting you can opt for a worm bin or compost-friendly bags. If they grow a ton of tomatoes, try looking for a tomato press (google "gardener's supply" which carries the presses). If they like mushrooms, you can also add a mushroom grow kit.

2 - New to Film Photography

This could be for artists or anyone looking at getting into 35mm photography. Do they want a point-and-shoot or a manual 35mm camera? This style isn't digital. It uses actual film. Point-and-shoot utilizes autofocus and is done with the push of a button. Manual 35mm cameras utilizes different lenses, manual adjustments, and a little more control for photos. Both of these take 35mm film. Camera + 2 rolls of film, great gift. Film comes in regular (check the ISO for compatability) and specialty. You should be able to find a quick to ship place online line at Cute Camera or Retrospeckt or even Amazon.

3 - Hiking and Foraging

For the person who hikes frequently, wants to get out more, or who wants to start, look for this combination: local hiking trails guide or map, local foraging book, a foraging bag (PNW Bushcraft or Barebones or elsewhere), and a new water bottle for hiking. Foraging bags are a little stiff and are either belt mounted or are shoulder slung. This is an activity gift that they can do by themselves or with others. They should be able to connect with others in their area if they have questions with hiking and/or foraging.

4 - Cook Something New

We all know that person who loves to cook. You should have an idea of what they like to cook. Find something that they are not super familiar with. If they mainly focus on Italian food, perhaps try French or Chinese or something more exotic like Egyptian or Argentinian. This idea requires: a visually wonderful cookbook, 3-5 odd spices or items from the cookbook (non-perishable), and a wine or beer to pair with the food (totally aim for regional). This will provide the person with a cooking style to explore, some spices ready to be used, and a beverage to pair with their food.

5 - Fitness Starter Pack

If you know someone who is looking at joining a gym or starting a new fitness class (aerobics, spinning, etc), you can show your support with a few cool gym items. Here are our best suggestions: gym bag with gym shoe storage space, a camp towel (for showering at the gym), a gift card or punch card for their preferred gym of choice, and/or new gym shoes. The gym bag and camp towel are pretty easy finds. Camp towels are great for the gym because they are lightweight and tend to not be bulky. It is always preferred to have separate gym shoes that are changed into at the gym, not worn to the gym. Outdoor shoes track in dirt, rocks, water, snow, salt, grit, and all sorts of other stuff that can actually end up being dangerous on gym equipment. The last thing you want to do is slip while using a weight machine or something because you're wearing outdoor shoes. If you opt for a pair of shoes, make sure they are suited for what the person wants to do. Running shoes, lifting shoes, powerlifting shoes, crossfit shoes...they're all different.

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  • Writer's pictureJessie Desmond

Are you looking to embrace a winter style? Perhaps you want to really indulge with the dichotomy of hot and cold. This is a brief guide to getting started and we even delve into a bit of fashion at the end.

Please be aware of the dangers of cold climates. Hypothermia, frostbite, frostnip, snow blindness, and other issues are very real. Be safe, be prepared.

Cold Water Bathing & Hot Water Bathing

I know. Cold water bathing sounds like a nightmare, but it can really help with circulation. In fact, it's referred to as cryotherapy. It can also help with muscle recovery, pain relief, and boosting your mood. A cold water bath isn't done for very long, only 10-15 minutes max - most people start out with very brief dips that only last a few seconds.

In some northern regions, ice bathing or cold water bathing is completely normal. People go for a short swim in a frozen lake or in the icy ocean or simply rub themselves down with snow before/after hitting the sauna.

You may find a location that offers a Polar Bear Plunge. This is an opportunity to jump into some freezing water while having a group of people around to watch and assist if needed. Also, you get to tell people you participated in the plunge.

A few tips if you want to start taking dips in cold water:

  • Wear water shoes. Ice can be very sharp.

  • Do it with a friend or at least have someone nearby in case you need assistance.

  • People often wear winter gloves and hats while doing this outside.

  • You can always try this out by filling a bathtub with ice and cold water.

  • Have an "after cold plunge" plan.

After you take your cold plunge, you will either want to warm up wet or dry. The wet method is to step into a sauna. The dry method is to take a rinsing shower, then put on comfortable dry clothing and enjoy a hot beverage.

For most, the overall goal is to feel happy and invigorated!

Hot water bathing can happen with saunas or with natural hot springs. People who live near a natural hot springs will often avoid them in the summer (unless its raining) and mainly visit in the cold winter months.

If you do visit a hot springs in the winter, have some sort of shoe to get you to and from the warm water. Your feet will thank you. You may also want to have a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

Links, so you don't think I'm nuts:

Cross Country Skiing (aka Nordic Skiing)

Cross Country Skiing is not downhill skiing. Instead, this style can take you on trails through the forests and across the landscape. There are 2 main styles: classic and skate. It deals with ski types and technique. If you've never been cross country skiing, just opt for classic to start with.

Cross country skiing often has a cutoff temperature of -20F because it becomes fairly unpleasant to ski in temperatures colder than that.

This style of skiing will really work your legs and butt. It's cardio and natural resistance because of the snow. The best thing about this style is that you can venture out with friends and you can even have your dog join you. Kids can do this, adults can do this, and elderly people can do this (as long as they can walk).

If you really get into this style of skiing, in the summer months you can try roller skiing!

Tips for getting started:

  • You may want a pair of lobster ski gloves.

  • You will need a hat, gloves, winter socks, winter activewear jacket, insulated tights or lightweight winter pants rated for outdoor activity, possibly a scarf or neck gaiter.

  • Before you purchase a pair of skis and poles, find a rental spot first!

  • You may want to carry an emergency light if the daylight hours are short.

  • Be aware that local wildlife might cross your path and it may not always be in your favor.

  • Wear layers!!! Wear layers!!! Wear layers!!!

  • On a bright day, wear sunglasses!

Links for Cross Country Skiing:

Winter Spas

Where ever you go, you can usually find a spa or various locations that could make up a spa. Body work is pretty essential to this, so find and book yourself a massage, a facial, reflexology (feet), a body wrap, and whatever else you want to have done. You may also want to get your hair and nails done, which may be a separate venue. You may want to end your day with time in a sauna + a cold water dip or access to snow, which may be another separate venue. Mix in some delicious meals and perhaps sharing a bottle of wine with some friends in the evening.

If you live in a northern climate, you may want to add a trip to the tanning salon to the list for a little vitamin D. In higher latitude locations, tanning salons are often recommended by doctors to offset the lack of sunlight and low vitamin D levels people suffer from.

Other Winter Things

The cold can be harsh. As an Alaskan, I know that to be completely true. How do we get around it? There are 2 big dichotomies to consider with winter: hot and cold; light and dark. We like hot beverages in cold temperatures and we like ice cream while we warm up inside. The days grow short, the nights get longer. We can stay warm and have a good time in buildings constructed of ice. We appreciate ice carving and well lit paths. We enjoy a hot sauna, followed by standing outside in the brisk air.

How else can you appreciate the winter?

  • Winter photography - There is a lot of things to photograph in the winter, more than just the northern lights.

  • Ice art - Ice carving art is a big deal in northern regions. It is especially worth it to go in the darker hours when the ice carvings are all lit up. Just dress warmly.

  • Other winter sporting activities - You can try snowshoeing, snowboarding, downhill skiing, winter running, winter fat-tire biking, or simply go on a winter walk. Yes, there are year-round races for all of these things.

  • Hot Beverages & Food - Indulge in hot beverages, soups, and hearty comfort foods. Spicy foods can also help heat you up!

  • Local arts and crafts - There are a high number of people in cold climate locations who do arts and crafts. This means you'll find art shows, music gigs, performance art, and craft bazaars. Visit to find local flair.

  • Local food and drink - Another thing you'll find in cold weather climates are a number of breweries, distilleries, meaderies, and the occassional winery. There is also usually a number of local production of foods. Venture out for a tour of locally produced foods and drink.

Winter Stylings & Themes

You'll notice that there are various layers being worn by people in the following photos. Also, there are a lot of warm textiles being utilized. You don't see anyone wearing cold fabrics like chiffon or satin.

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