Heritage Brand: Longaberger

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My first Longaberger basket was gifted to me by my mother when I was a teenager. It was a small lidded basket with a handle, and it made me feel important. Over the years it has moved with me many times and housed various things, finally establishing itself as my sewing basket (really, more of a mending basket since I don’t know how to sew). 25+ years later, it is still as beautiful as the day I got it, maybe even more so.
One of my more recent Longaberger purchases was a picnic basket. I wanted a picnic basket that was always packed with the essentials for trips big and small. Someone on Craigslist was selling a whole room full of Longaberger baskets (I kick myself now for not getting more!), and she had three large picnic baskets. I chose the one in the best condition and have filled it with all of the essentials. With this basket my husband and I (and now our daughter) can have civilized meals pretty much anywhere.
Our next basket will be an Easter basket for our daughter.
Because people tend to collect them, used Longaberger baskets can be found in very good condition. If you’re looking for used baskets, the larger ones are best bought locally since shipping can be quite expensive.
These baskets can come with a wide range of plastic protectors, cloth liners, risers, and tags. I tend to prefer a plain, stained wood basket with few add-ons, although in some cases these can be nice. For my sewing basket I use the plastic protector that came with it, and for my picnic basket I use a cloth liner with brightly-colored stripes (the Sunny Day liner).
Longaberger baskets are hand made in the USA.

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Summer Road Trip: Seattle to Lake Chelan

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Boats docked at Campbell’s Resort

I’ve been coming to Lake Chelan for summer vacations since I was little.  My brothers and I would swim in the pools at Campbell’s all day long and on the last day of vacation we would go to Slidewaters, where I would dream that someday, I would be a lifeguard– a teenager– with a blue swimsuit, a golden tan, and the power to wave people onto the slides when their turn came.  At the end of the day we were each allowed to get a Slidewaters t-shirt, then we piled into the car and slept for hours while my dad drove us home.

I still love this trip and I try to go every year.

Last year, on our way to Lake Chelan, my husband and I made a pit-stop in the town of Cashmere and serendipitously discovered the barbeque of the Gods, Country Boys BBQ.  Thus a new tradition was born.

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We stopped there again this year for dinner Friday night on our way into town.  We also picked up a pound of brisket, which we had as a main course for brunch (for which we used our picnic basket) on our patio at the hotel on Saturday and Sunday.

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Campbell’s Resort

We stayed at Campbell’s Inn*, which for me, IS Lake Chelan.  I’ve stayed other places, and although this place has its faults, it’s my favorite resort in Washington State.  Everywhere here, there are happy families enjoying the fleeting northwest summer together.  It is right on the lake, and yet also in the middle of town.  There is a Safeway and a Starbucks right across the street, as well as a variety store that has been there forever.  It also has a restaurant, and after sampling a few other places in town, this is still my favorite place to have dinner in Lake Chelan.

We spent Saturday floating on inner tubes on the lake, and had dinner at the Pub and Veranda at Campbells, where we got these parmesan truffle fries.

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On Sunday we did a little wine tasting.  Lake Chelan does not have the best wines in Washington State- for that, you have to go to Walla Walla.  But it does have some great wineries with some stunning views.  The first winery we went to was Benson, where we got a case of Pinot Noir.

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The view from the tasting room at Benson

Next we went to Nefarious Cellars.

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The view from the deck at Nefarious Cellars

The last thing we did that day?  Slidewaters**, of course!

On our way out of town we made sure to stop at a roadside stand to get fresh cherries, peaches, corn, and zucchini, so we will still be enjoying the fruits of our vacation all week.

*Here are some tips on making reservations at Campbells.  The best rooms are the ground floor rooms, where you can easily go in an out of your room from the resort.  This is especially nice if you are traveling with kids.  Rooms fill up fast, so it’s best to make your reservations by at least December, and if you reserve your room for the following year when you check out, they will give you your same room for the same weekend again.  All this being said, last year we decided to go to Lake Chelan at the last minute, and were able to book a room for the weekend just 4 or 5 days ahead due to cancellations.  I also think Lake Chelan is slightly nicer outside of the peak season that is roughly 4th of July to Labor Day.  In June and September it is still warm, but the crowds are thinner and it’s not quite as hot.

**One of the things I love about Slidewaters is that they still have many of the original slides, including the Thunder Rapids tube ride (which will always be the “River Ride” to me) and the four original slides with their original names- the Blue Blaster, the Sidewinder, the Corkscrew, and the Bonzai Pipeline.  Even many of the signs are what I remember from when I was a kid.

Bringing a Little of Your Vacation Home with You, Part III

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It’s always nice to be able to bring home some wonderful smells from places you’ve visited in the form of soaps, lotions, and other personal care products.  I always keep my eyes (and nose!) attuned to these things when I am on vacation so that I can bring some great local things home with me.  A little for me, and a little for my friends and family, as these kinds of things make great gifts.

I found the Filthy Farmgirl Soaps at an ABC Store next to the Ritz-Carlton Kapulua (the ABC Stores in Hawaii are gold mines for local treasures) and I bought a bunch of them to take home.  They are all-natural, they have super-cool packaging, they smell amazing, and they are unique and fun, making them great gifts (a great gift to me, as well).  The cabinet that I’ve been storing them in smells so good every time I open the door.

I’ve given out several to family members for birthday presents so far.  Some of the soaps have names that are a little bit naughty, so I bought a couple of the more tame ones for gifts for family (the Uber Super-Duper Aloha, and the Filthy Surfer Soap).  Filthy Farmgirl has free shipping to anywhere in the US with no minimum order, so I’ll definitely be ordering more of these for future gifts.

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The pool at the Grand Wailea

Another thing I like to take home to remember the smells of Hawaii is the Honey Mango lotion, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner from the Grand Wailea Hotel on Maui.  This was another hotel that we stayed at on our honeymoon, and this is probably our favorite hotel anywhere because of it’s incredible pool.  The hotel is also famous for its spa.  I love the tropical smell of the products at this hotel and I find myself squirreling them away to take home with me since it’s such a fun reminder of the vacation.  You can also buy them online.

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I would love to hear about some of your favorite personal care products that you have found on vacation!

Bringing a Little of Your Vacation Home with You, Part II

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One thing you can do to try to recreate food and drinks that you had on vacation is to search online for specific names of foods, drinks, and/or restaurants.  If the restaurant will let you photograph the menu (or take it home), you can use this to search online for those things you’d like to recreate and, if you’re lucky, you might find a recipe.  Some restaurants might even have recipes or cookbooks of their recipes that you can buy.

When my husband and I were on Maui we went to Mama’s Fish House.  This restaurant is right on the beach, and it is my favorite restaurant in Hawaii.  The menu includes all of the best foods (especially seafood) from the island, and the restaurant has a long history that you can feel.

The first thing we did there was order drinks, and I ordered “The Relaxer”.  I feel relaxed just saying that.  It’s a mix of pineapple, coconut, chocolate, and vodka.  When I got home I wanted to be able to relive that feeling of being at Mama’s, so I did some searching online and found the recipe on the blog, “Lick My Spoon”, which I reprinted below.  I made this drink for a summer party and it was a big hit.

On the same trip we also stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Kapulua, which was incredibly decadent.  We were on our honeymoon so staying there was definitely a splurge for us.  We whiled away our days by the pool enjoying their fabulous drinks.  Below are photos of their drinks list.  My favorite was the Makai Fresca, which I hope to recreate at home sometime soon.

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The Relaxer:

Ingredients (makes one drink)

1 oz. Bols Dark Crème de Cacao
1 oz. Coco Lopez Crème de Coconut
1 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. milk
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, cut up and frozen (or you can substitute with 1/4 cup pineapple juice + 1/2 cup ice)

Instructions

1. Pour half of the Bols Dark Creme de Cacao into the bottom of a tall glass.
2. Blend together everything else and pour over the Dark Creme de Cacao so that it swirls up the side of glass.
3. Top with a little umbrella toothpick and try not to drink too fast because you’re going to want to.

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Bringing a Little of Your Vacation Home with You

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One thing I like to do when I get home from vacation is to try to recreate some of the best foods and drinks I tried on vacation. On a recent visit to Waikiki we had some garlic shrimp from a food truck that had us licking the garlicky sauce off of our fingers. I don’t have a picture because we were spending that day on the beach, and wandered just far enough off the beach to find the shrimp truck.

So we decided recently to try to recreate the garlic shrimp at home. Here is the recipe that we used, which I reprinted below. Be generous with the butter and the garlic, and do not overcook. One of us does not like spicy food so we omitted the red pepper flakes.

The shrimp truck served their garlic shrimp with sticky rice, which was perfect to sop up the buttery sauce.  Since we are not on vacation, we served ours with a big salad.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt to taste
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon caper brine
1 1/2 teaspoons cold butter
1/3 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter
water, as needed

Directions:
1.Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Place shrimp in an even layer on the bottom of the pan and cook for 1 minute without stirring.
2.Season shrimp with salt; cook and stir until shrimp begin to turn pink, about 1 minute.
3.Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, caper brine, 1 1/2 teaspoon cold butter, and half the parsley.
4.Cook until butter has melted, about 1 minute, then turn heat to low and stir in 1 1/2 tablespoon cold butter. Cook and stir until all butter has melted to form a thick sauce and shrimp are pink and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5.Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl; continue to cook butter sauce, adding water 1 teaspoon at a time if too thick, about 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
6.Serve shrimp topped with the pan sauce. Garnish with remaining flat-leaf parsley.

What’s in Your Picnic Basket?

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pb4My husband and I like to take trips in the summer and when we do, it is nice to have a picnic basket that is pre-packed with all of the essentials.  Last weekend we took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula and stayed in a rustic cabin for the weekend.  We just put the picnic basket in the car and we knew we would have everything we needed for a picnic should the occasion arise.  We ended up using it to have a very nice breakfast in the cabin every morning, instead of having to navigate the brunch crowd in town.

Our picnic basket is the Longaberger Large Picnic Basket, which can be bought used on Ebay.  I like this basket because it’s sturdy and I think it will just get prettier with age, and I like that the top can also be used as a small table.  I also like the way it opens, since it is very easy to access everything in the basket.  The downside of this basket is that it is not easy to carry over long distances, especially if you have a lot of floaties and other things you are taking to the beach.  But it’s other good qualities more than compensate for this.

The liner is the Sunny Day liner.  I like this liner because it has pockets, and I like the colorful stripes, but really any of the cloth liners for this picnic basket would work.  Often these baskets also come with a plastic liner, but I am not a fan of these as I think they are unnecessary.

Now for what I keep in my basket.  First, I found some sturdy acrylic wine glasses and put two of these in the side pockets.  In the other side pockets I put some one-gallon Ziplock bags and a bunch of plastic grocery bags, which are nice for garbage and dirty dishes.  I added four sturdy, unbreakable plastic plates and a cutting board that could be used as a serving platter (mine is 8.5″ x 11″ bamboo, the middle size of these).

There are lots of little odds and ends that are nice to have in the basket, and I searched for awhile until I found something to hold all of these things.  What I found is actually a first aid kit from Target, which you can see open in the last picture above.  I was a little surprised that I couldn’t find something made for this purpose but I have found that the first aid kit is really perfect.  I wanted something that could open up and allow easy access to everything inside it.  On one side, which is just a zippered pocket, I put napkins, thin closeable plastic sandwich bags (we use these all the time), and burger basket liners (you can use these on your plates and serving platter to minimize cleanup- I think these are nicer and generate less garbage than paper plates).  On the other side, which has divided pockets, I put lots of plastic utensils (I usually throw these in the dishwasher when I get home, and I find they can be re-used many times), the Opinel Stainless Steel No. 8 Knife in Olive Wood,  a Waiter’s Corkscrew, the MSR Alpine Salt and Pepper Shaker, and some individually packaged wet wipes.

Believe it or not, there is still plenty of room in the basket after all of these things for a picnic.

I have found that the picnic basket is constantly evolving, and after our trip this last weekend we have decided to add a tea ball (so that we can drink our nice loose-leaf tea when we are on vacation), and possibly some camping mugs.

We’ve really enjoyed using this picnic basket on our travels, and have had some wonderful picnics with it.  What’s in your picnic basket?

How I learned about wine

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For most of my life wine has been a mystery to me.  In college my roommates and I chose wine according to whether the label made the under-$10 bottle look refined and expensive, but without the label I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a $2 bottle and a $200 bottle.  Not much changed for many years until I made an effort recently to learn more.

My husband and I planned a wine-tasting trip over his birthday weekend last year to Walla Walla, where there are some of the best wineries in Washington state.  We bought the book, “Washington Wines and Wineries“, by Paul Gregutt, and used this as our guide.

Paul rated the wineries on a scale of 1-5 stars, and he only included 3, 4, 5 star, as well as “rising stars.”  We identified the wineries we wanted to go to and we spent the weekend tasting.  We spent Saturday on foot downtown near our hotel visiting four wineries, and Sunday we hired a guide to drive our car for the day  to take us to eight wineries, which was a very wise decision.  We wrote down the wineries we went to and the wines we tasted (most wineries have a list they can give you), and we took pictures of the bottles of wine we bought as a reference for later.

By the end of the second day we could tell the difference between the wines at the five star wineries and the other wines, and we realized that next time we go back, we will make sure to visit the other five star wineries that we missed on this trip.  Our favorite winery that we visited was Bernard Griffin, which got five stars from Paul.  Bernard Griffin has a wine club that we are looking forward to joining.

The people at Bernard Griffin told us a funny story when we were there.  They have a signature line of wines that they used to call their tulip label because the labels had a picture of tulips on them.  These are very good wines that run $10-$15 per bottle.  However, their marketing people found that they had to redesign the label because people on the east coast didn’t think the bottle was fancy enough to serve at their dinner parties.

We’ve been enjoying the wines we bought on our tour all winter and we look forward to buying more wine from our favorite wineries.  We’re already thinking about our next wine-tasting trip, possibly to the Willamette Valley, Sonoma, Napa Valley, or Monterey.