The Boymom Diaries: Part 1

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My kids may be twins, but they are night and day. Raising boys is fun but also kind of gross. 

One kid is clingy, loves gamer videos, and refuses to wear pants unless we are going somewhere. His affinity for potty humor is wearing on me. He is like me in that he does not enjoy anything competitive in nature, so board games are pretty much out. His laugh is infectious and often inappropriate. 

My other child craves independence, the great outdoors, and loves to ride his scooter. He is the worst amateur magician in the world, but he makes up for it in cuteness. His comedic timing and ability to toss out a one-liner is ridiculous. 

Both kids are obsessed with dogs; I  have tried to get one for six months to no avail. It just has not panned out. Everything from people rehoming suddenly changing their minds to simply not being selected because makes it really hard to find hypoallergenic breeds. Unless you want to pay a breeder, which I do not. I have joked that it was easier to adopt the kids than it is to adopt a dog. Unbelievable. Anyway, they accost everyone we see walking with a dog. I have tried to get them to stop asking to pet everyone’s dogs. ESPECIALLY RIGHT NOW. Ugh.

I am always looking for things we can do together. The family walk in the evening is a great stress reliever. While no one wants to add screen time, any time I find a show or movie for the whole family to sit and watch together and they actually do so willingly, it always feels like a huge win. The kids love popcorn movie night. 

They’re eight years old now. I wonder how long the kisses and cuddles will continue. I am all too aware they have entered the big kid phase. It is terrifying and wonderful. I catch glimpses of the men they are becoming. They still come in the bathroom when I am in there, and I sometimes wonder if they’ll do this until the go to college. Just when I think my heart may burst, someone farts on me and I am brought back to the reality that we have more time. 

Mommy Is Obsessed with Hamilton

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I am obsessed with Hamilton, and it is driving my family crazy.

I have wanted to see Hamilton for years. I saw a video of Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House about ten years ago doing a rap about Alexander Hamilton and it was funny and brilliant. I tried to get tickets to no avail. So when Disney+ announced it would be available July 3, I was thrilled. I will say, being a theater geek, I was concerned I may not enjoy it as much. Sometimes stage productions don’t hold up well when they’re filmed and it comes off like a parent’s recording from a school play. 

THIS IS NOT THE CASE FOR HAMILTON. History, musical theater, hip hop – it is all of my favorite things rolled into one. 

I was hooked from the beginning. When the nearly 3-hour production was over, I was so sad. (I make frequent jokes about how nothing on stage or screen should be more than 2 hours or I fall asleep. Mama is tired! And anything more than 2 hours is typically self-indulgent nonsense, in my humble opinion.) But this? It is triumphant, heartfelt, heartbreaking, fun, hilarious and brilliant. Not to mention, the hooks get stuck in your head for days. This work of genius took 7 years to write. SEVEN. YEARS.

I watched it the evening of July 4th after we put the kids to bed. Then a couple of days later, I watched it a second time over a period of 3 days because of being interrupted by the family (sheesh!), and I wanted to pay closer attention to a few things. There is so much happening with the set, and some of the raps are 5-6 words per second. It deserved another look.

The soundtrack has become the music of my life. My kids ask for a snack 20 minutes after they have lunch – I burst into “Wait for It.” They get mad because I say no and as they storm off, I sing “You’ll Be Back.” Working on a piece – I start singing ‘why do you write like you’re running out of time…” Hearing of someone’s passing, the lyrics “who lives, who dies, who tells your story” sink in. I fold the laundry and it’s “work work…” and “Satisfied” takes on new meaning when you’re dieting. 

You know how our kids watched Moana 300 times? And you know how we know all of Miranda’s genius songs by heart? This is our chance to get them back. 

Are you a Hamilton fan?

An Educator’s View on Returning to School In-Person

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As a school employee, I’ve been asked by many friends, families and neighbors about my feelings regarding the reopening of schools. My answer changes daily and I’m sure it will continue to evolve as we gather information concerning the virus and school reopening plans.

A month ago, the notion of a hybrid model sounded appealing. From a parent perspective, the proposal of my son going to school a few days a week was welcome. He would get to socialize a bit with his friends, connect with teachers, and receive instruction from a highly-trained teacher who knows how to engage 7-year-olds in learning.

As an educator, I liked the thought of getting to see families, teachers, and students in-person. I miss offering a hug to a caregiver after a difficult day. I miss sitting and talking with preschool teachers, helping them problem-solve and helping them include all kids in their classroom environments.  Then I thought about the me from six months ago; if I told her that a contagious virus that scientists still don’t know how to treat was sweeping through our world, she would grab my hands and urge me to not let myself or my son enter a school building. 

So Many Questions, No Straightforward Answers

We all have so many questions since Portland Public Schools and surrounding districts have announced their reopening plans. Many go unanswered. How on earth could they manage even simple tasks, such as kids going to the bathroom? Are kids really going to keep their masks on all day? What about lunch and recess? Will there be art and PE? What happens when someone at the school tests positive? How are schools going to manage those children who are high risk or who’s family member is high risk? 

Then, I started thinking about myself. My job entails traveling to different preschools, Head Starts, and private homes. Sometimes I work in up to eight different places in one day. What would happen if one of my students tested positive? What if I were to get sick? Would I be given a mask for each new place I enter? Would I change my clothes between visits, and, if so, where?? 

Given the increase in exposure, if schools go back to in-person instruction, we will not be able to see my parents in the same capacity. There are tears running down my face just thinking about it. My kids would be devastated if we could not see them, but I will not risk exposing them to COVID if I return to in-person work and/or my son goes back to in-person instruction.

Many Need In-Person School and Services

These, I understand, are the concerns of the privileged. What if I didn’t have a partner to share the weight of this pandemic? What if my child had significant special needs and really needed specialized staff in order to participate in learning? If this were the case, I don’t know where my kids would go all day. Perhaps the schools should be open for families who find themselves in this predicament. Perhaps school buildings should be open for the children and families who desperately need to attend school in their classrooms, not for families like mine who desperately want to return to some sense of normalcy.

With all these questions, I also know school is essential for so many families. When I start thinking about kids and families I have known over the years who are living on the margins, my heart breaks. There are families who are food and/or housing insecure, learning English, being abused, living with special needs, and the list goes on and on. I can’t stop thinking about those families and how much those students need the support from their school and teachers, and from the social services connected to their schools. 

What do I think school should look like this year? Honestly, I just don’t know. I hope those who are at the head of the tables use this as an opportunity to redesign education to make it inclusive for all children. Let’s talk about supporting kids outside. Yes, we live in Portland and yes, it rains. Kids would be much safer getting rained on then in an enclosed building with multiple other people. Can we use alternative spaces such as parking lots, fields, parks? I read another teacher’s opinion on this topic and she suggested meeting students in their front yards or from the car if they needed some more in-person support. Yes, I understand this all costs money and involves logistics, but I also believe we could reshape instruction to better support all of our students while also staying safe. 

So to answer the Big Question: How do I, as an educator, feel about returning to in-person instruction? Terrified. We do not have enough information to safely send all our kids, teachers and staff back into school buildings at this point in time. I yearn for the day I can see my students in-person and drop my child off at school. For now, I will continue to crave in-person instruction but advocate for virtual learning for all that can manage to do it.  I will continue to advocate for different ways to support our students who need the most help. Hopefully, my view of in-person instruction will change over the next few months as we gather more information about the virus, but for now there are too many unanswered questions for my comfort.

Spirit of Summer (COVID Edition)

You guys, what are you doing this summer? A few weeks ago, we went on a family road trip despite COVID. From Oregon, to California, Nevada, and Arizona. We kept safe distances and wore masks. We spent a lot of time outdoors – hiking, going to the beach, games with our family (my kids’ uncle taught them to play chess). We even caught the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. While I didn’t feel great about traveling, I was concerned for our family’s mental health if we stayed home and canceled yet another trip. 

I cried when we saw our far away family, and I hugged them. I held on a little long. And I probably made it weird, but I don’t care. This quarantine thing is ROUGH on everyone. Even introverts miss people! Sort of. Me being a textbook extrovert and hugger, it’s starting to get to me. I haven’t hugged my parents since February. Keeping them safe and healthy is priority over my need for warm hugs. Who am I, Olaf? It is killing me.

How are you doing on screen time, mamas? Yeah, I just have not fought the battle. The kids are so isolated from people, places, and things that I hate taking one more thing from them. Also, I am fighting over other things like why they won’t eat their lunch or why they can’t agree on anything. I am choosing my battles and I decided this one isn’t worth it for now as long as I keep an eye on the content. 

Our family evening walks are a nice break. I passed a family and they all said hello, and I said “it’s really good to see you…” then I said “I don’t even know you, but it’s good to see you.” My husband shook his head. Yes, dear, I know I am a mess. I was kind of teary. I miss people I don’t even like… or know for that matter!

I did not brush my hair today, and I wear slippers most of the day. I do not venture out much. People keep asking what I plan to do for school in the fall, and honestly I feel like I can’t think that far out. School district emails say they plan to have a plan. Worrying has never added a day to my life, so I am just going to wait and see. We will figure it out, and so will you. 

We saw a friend from my kids’ school at a nearby park the other day. She and her family were adorable, all on bikes. The stopped and said hello from a distance. Before they rode off, she turned, gave a salute and said, “Keep the spirit of summer at hand.” It was hilarious and adorable, and so – I pass those words on to you. 

How are you surviving summer? Are you traveling? What successes and disappointments have you encountered during this time?

Pandemic Prepper

In 2009, my husband and I put together emergency “bug out bags” which included flashlights, N95 masks and MRE’s. We created the bags, put them in the garage and more or less forgot about them. Preparing the bags seemed utterly ridiculous until I pulled out those N95 masks during the destructive Eagle Creek fire that scarred the Gorge in May of 2018.

N95 mask mommaPreparedness has a bit of a bad name. People often think of “Doomsday Preppers” and the idea that the only preppers are those preparing for the apocalypse or zombies. Most of the preparedness discussions revolve around conspiracy theories.

What I’ve come to realize the last couple of months is that many level-headed preppers quietly exist. The pandemic pushed our family to start taking a serious look at our food, water, medical and personal needs if a real emergency should occur. We do, after all, live in earthquake territory.

To say I’ve turned into a prepper feels like it comes with a stigma, and I’m hesitant to openly discuss it. The CDC has always recommended having about 3-days of food and water on hand yet only 17% of Americans consider themselves prepared for a man-made or natural disaster.

In early March, we had about a week’s worth of food in a general sense, but anything beyond that, we would have been struggling to make a substantial meal. The pandemic pushed me to take a hard look at our preparedness plan. I started to consider what food we would need in an emergency. Being prepared is more of a prudent practice, it’s not paranoia. At least, this is what I tell myself when I inventory my pantry.

What I discovered in the last few months from reading various preparedness articles was there’s a difference between bugging-in and bugging-out. All require different approaches. The emergency kits we put together in 2009 are good for bugging-out but don’t take into account what important items we would need to grab if we had to leave home urgently. In addition, I created them and forgot about them, and it’s important to regularly assess if the items need to be updated.

Preparedness can quickly get overwhelming and doesn’t seem a hot burner issue so most people don’t do anything. As someone that has now started down this road, I can say it’s worth considering the various possibilities in a broad sense and getting your ducks (or canned goods) in a row. It’s like having a will; it helps you sleep better at night knowing you are thinking ahead to economic hardship or a natural event.

I would recommend starting with one method of emergency preparedness. Right now, it seems easiest to consider what an extended stay-home scenario looks like since we’re experiencing it in real time.
canned jams

I’ve taken this opportunity to learn to can, to be sure and get my vegetables from more local resources. We are eating more fresh seasonal food that is locally grown, we are examining what spices, canned goods and dry goods we need to keep on hand at all times and are buying 1 or 2 extra of items each week. We are mentally preparing for what may come.

Let me be clear: there is a difference between hoarding and clearing shelves versus buying an extra can of corn or beans. In the preparedness community, the idea is to be ahead of the surge so you aren’t a strain on the system. Nobody can predict what the next wave will be so with every shopping trip, I prepare a little for the future. I inventory my pantry and add an extra can or two of something here or there. GardeningNow is a great time to prepare for an emergency, beyond just the food in your pantry. Creating a communication plan with your family members is a good place to start. Know where to connect and how to communicate if needed during an unexpected event. How would you exit your house and where would you meet if there was a fire or a natural disaster? Determine who is on your contact list and designate someone out of the area to check in with as a point of contact. A good next step is to create a supply kit. Having several days’ worth of food, water, batteries, a radio, toiletries, and a first aid kit for home and ready on the go could save your life one day.

It still feels utterly ridiculous to get ready for an event that may never happen, but I’ve learned life is less stressful when you plan and prepare. Once again, I am grateful we had those bug out bags with masks prepared for an emergency.

The Apple Experiment and the Power of Kindness!

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Apple Experiment 4.29
Apple Experiment 7.2

A few months ago, a friend posted an experiment they did with their kids on social media, and I knew I must try it. The experiment? Testing the effects of positive and negative energy on an apple.

This was intriguing to me, as I am familiar with the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, the Japanese Scientist who showed us the effects of thoughts and intentions on water molecules (if you aren’t familiar with his work, look it up – it’s fascinating!). And, the many similar studies involving plants and positive words, uplifting music, and the like.

I’ve always been a fan of quantum physics, and proving that energy has power is my absolute favorite, especially when it involves showing our kiddos the power of positive and negative thoughts and words. So, as soon as we heard about this, we started our own!

Here’s how it works:

1) Take any ordinary apple and cut it in half
2) Put one half in a sealed mason jar or other clear air-tight container, and the other half in an identical container (the containers must be the same, and they need to be clear so you can still see the apple)
3) Label one as the “good apple” and one as the “bad apple”
4) Send only kind, positive energy and words to the good apple, and only negative words and energy to the bad apple
5) Watch and see what happens!!! You will be amazed, and you will have a constant reference point for the importance of practicing kindness!

We have had this experiment going for more than 8 weeks now. And honestly, it was very hard for me. I live the concept of love and oneness at such a deep level, I could not be mean to the “bad apple” (yes, really). So instead, I just told it it would rot, and we put it in a corner all by itself.

With the “good apple”, we showered it with love, prayers and positive vibes! The kids drew pictures and wrote love notes for it, set up a special little bed and gave it love rocks and stickers, and boy did it thrive! Only recently could you even tell that it wasn’t a brand-new apple, it was astonishing. And, the bad apple? Well, you can see from the picture that it quite literally wasted away. It’s disgusting, moldy, and really, really gross!

Before we started, everyone was very skeptical that anything would happen, but now there is no denying it – energy matters and words have power. And now we have a great reminder whenever the kids are being unkind or processing their feelings in a negative way (yelling and hitting instead of talking through their feelings, deep breathing and taking breaks). We say, “Remember the apple!”, and sometimes even jokingly say, “Don’t bad apple me!”

Try it with your kiddos – you won’t be disappointed!

9 Instagram-Worthy Cookies You Didn’t Even Know You Needed in Your Life

I’ve found myself smitten with a delightful little part of Instagram these days: designer cookies. Yes, beautifully decorated cookies with some of the most inventive, creative, and funny illustrations. So, really, what’s not to love?

I took it upon myself (you’re welcome) to put together a list of nine of the most unique themes to share with you. The best part? Eating them They’re all made by local businesses, so you can order your own!

If you’re looking to add some pretty and uplifting pics to your Instagram feed, I suggest following these accounts. Because, honestly, who couldn’t use more cookies in their life right about now?

At Your Cervix

Blue pink and white cookies decorated for baby doctor including "at your cervix"

I know a lot of moms that bring a gift for their labor and delivery team (not me, I’m never that prepared. Sorry doc!). These cookies by Anh Le, based out of Happy Vally, are sweet and sentimental and look like very pretty mom and baby cookies. There’s something a little extra special here because these were for a fertility team at ORM.

But the real kicker is “At your cervix”. That has to be one of the most appropriate lines ever delivered to a medical professional.

See Ya Later Ovulator

Hysterectomy Cookies

I laid eyes on these beauties in a Facebook Group where a fellow mom was looking for a post-hysterectomy gift to send to her friend and Too Smart Cookies, based out of Gresham, nailed it! Having a hysterectomy is a SIGNIFICANT surgery and something as thoughtful (and funny) as these cookies surely brighten her friend’s day. I’m not sure which is my favorite: No more cramping my style or the cutest little uteri I’ve ever seen.

Paw-some PaintingsCookies with realistic images of dogs painted on them

Another Facebook group find, these cookies feature the mugs from real pups. And they are hand-painted. Talk about talent. While Matriarch Cookie Co. technically isn’t local, they’re based out of Eugene, I’m more than willing to make an exception because LOOK AT THOSE dogs. These cookies are truly a work of art.

Thank you for Being a Friend

Cookies decorated with the faces of each of the Golden Girls characters and the text "Thank you for being a friend"Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down a road and back again/ Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.

When cheesecake isn’t available, we should all celebrate our friendships with the Golden Girls and cookies, obviously. So, why not send cookies to your friends to thank them, well, for being a friend? You can find these gems at Honey Bee Cookie Company (they’re in Beaverton).

In case you were wondering, I’m a solid Dorothy (according to this very reliable quiz from Buzzfeed).

I Ate Some Pie

Cookie with the Mathematics terms that translate into i 8 sum piCall me a sucker for a good math pun (because I am 100% that lady), but this clever Pi Day cookie from The Sugar Shoppe (in Canby) is a 10/10 in my book. I know you’re dying to get the joke, so here’s the loose translation. The squareroot of -1 is i, 2^3 equals 8, sigma means “the sum of”, and of course pi (3.14).

Put is all together and you get: i 8 sum pi…I ate some pie

Quarantine Cookies

Semore Sweet Cookies for Quarantine including a molecular rendition of COVID-19, surgincal mask, toilet paper roll, Purell bottle, and Lysol wipes

We all know that quarantine, shelter in place, and COVID-19, in general, have been pretty rough. The answer (to at least some of your woes)? Cookies of course. Send an appropriately social distanced hug that includes coronavirus, Purell, and Lysol (but all of the edible kinds) with this collection of Quarantine cookies from Semore Sweet Cookies (out of Colton, OR).

Thank you, Next

Two cookies on a Valentine's Day background. One cookie is decorated to look like Arianna Grande and the other says, "Thank U, Next"

Um, I don’t know about you, but I know EXACTLY what I’m sending my friends (or kid, or whomever) the next time they go through a rough breakup: these Ariana Grande Thank you, Next cookies from Cachito de Cielo Pdx (based in Portland).

Meanwhile, I’ll just be over here serenading anyone within a 50 radius,

“Spend more time with my friends. I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’. Plus, I met someone else. We havin’ better discussions…”

Babies, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

Honey Bee Cookie Company The Office Themed Baby Shower Cookies

We’ve all see beautifully decorated cookies for babyshowers, but what if they were also funny, referencing your favorite TV show and 100% on point? Enter The Office themed baby shower cookies from Honey Bee Cookie Company (in Beaverton). And I am here for every.single. detail. Whomever’s friends put this one-of-a-kind shower together, please get in touch as I think we should be best friends 🙂 Also, that’s one lucky baby to have a group of role models with such a solid sense of humor.

Urine Luck

Cookies for a Urologist with kidneys and a clipboard that reads "Urine Good Hands"The Sugar Shoppe does it again, scoring a perfect 10 for these gift cookies for a urologist friend. I literally LOL’d when I stumbled upon these. Oh, and I had to blur the top left cookie because, although it was cute and fit the collection perfectly, it’s not technically suitable for work…unless you’re a urologist of course. If you want to see for yourself, check out their Facebook page and search ‘urologist’.

Have you found some super unique or funny cookies around PDX? Let me know in the comments because I NEED TO KNOW!

When Your Child Is Having Social Conflict, Hop in the Back Seat

Few things elicit my momma bear instincts more than when my child’s feelings are hurt because of a friend. It’s a horrible feeling if your child wasn’t invited to a birthday party or if their friend left them out. As our kids get older, we have less and less control over their lives, and it’s a tricky adjustment since us moms are used to being the go-to fixers, helpers and figure-it-out-ers.

Just as we have to let them learn to use scissors and measure the flour themselves (cringe!), we also have to let them navigate their social relationships on their own. There are times when you are absolutely certain that you need to intervene – for example when safety is an issue or if the bullying won’t stop. This is more of a guide for when you aren’t sure if you should intervene, if your gut is feeling wishy-washy. 

If you find yourself talking to your friends or your partner about whether or not to intervene in your child’s social conflict, I have the following advice: offering your child a sounding board is good, telling them what to do and how to respond could set you up for problems later on, taking over is not a good idea. Here’s why:

Practice Makes Perfect (or Better, Anyway)

Learning to solve problems takes practice, and it takes awhile to get good at it. Like many things, kids often have to get it wrong to understand the lesson. Children are naturally ego-centric; they will frequently choose the option that best serves their own interests. Sometimes learning that your friends won’t want to hang around you as much if you are always telling them what to do is better felt than heard from a parent. Just as kids will sometimes learn to ride a bike or swim once all their friends are doing it, some kids will learn to navigate social situations better through peer interaction and trial and error.  

Subtle Messaging

Many of us like to take over a chore or task because it’s faster and easier if we just do it ourselves. I could bribe or debate or cajole my kids into folding the laundry or I could save the mental energy and just do it myself. But here’s the thing: If you solve your kids’ problems, it’s a subtle message that you don’t trust them to do it well on their own. Over time this can lead to a lack of confidence, which can lead to anxiety. I see a lot of kids in my office who fear not being able to do things right the first time or who don’t even know how to get started with conflict. Many of them look to their parents to fix things for them. Unlearning this is hard for everyone. It takes more time, but offering guidance from the back seat now will pay dividends later on. 

Teach them to Problem-Solve

When you child comes to you about a social problem, first make sure you have time to provide your undivided attention. If not, schedule a time for this. I swear, the minute I sit down to do some work, a sort of sonar messaging emits from my body and my children flock to me with concerns.

Once you dive in, empathize with their struggle, and let them know this happens to you sometimes also. Next, ask if they want some help figuring out what to do or if they just need to vent. If they want to vent, fight all urges to offer advice and just let them vent. If they want help, ask them how they are thinking about solving this and maybe help them weigh the pros and cons of each option.  If they want you to talk to their friend’s mom, remind them that they have the skills to deal with this on their own. If they don’t fully have the skills, well, you’ve got yourself a teachable moment! Acknowledge that most conflict is messy, that there are many ways to approach it, none of the best ways are likely to be easy, and it might not work out on the first go around.  For example, letting something that’s really bothering you slide might be pain free initially but might ultimately make you more unhappy. Once they have made a decision on how to proceed, wish them luck and let ’em know you’ll be there if they want to debrief afterwards. 

Berry Season Is in Full Swing :: What to Do With All That Berry Goodness

Berry Season 2020 is a go here in the Pacific Northwest. Arguably the most flavorful time of the year, there’s something magical about the berry deliciousness that abounds in the region (or, you know, it might be the soil composition and rain or whatever).

Since we’re just starting July, the low-down on berries is a bit of a good news/bad news situation.

The bad news: Strawberries, the shortest and earliest of seasons, are all but done for the year.

The goods news: There plenty of other glorious berries out there just waiting to be picked.

  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Marionberries
  • Cherries
  • Tayberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Other varieties that I can even think of because the berry cup runneth over

Flats of freshly picked raspberries and blueberries in pints at the farm

Where to Get Your Berries

First thing’s first: you have to get your hands on those tasty little treats. Can you grow them in your own garden? As a matter of fact, you can. You can plant your own berry starts, like me, and wait for the bountiful harvest… next year.

U-pick vs Pre-picked

In order to have fresh berries at your disposal NOW, you’ve got two main options: U-pick vs pre-picked. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

U-pick is done by, you guessed it, YOU! By heading to your local berry farm, you and the fam can gather as many delectable berries as your hearts desire. There are certainly some perks to the u-pick method including:

  • Prices are (usually) cheaper
  • It’s literally as fresh as it gets
  • You can get as large of a quantity as you’d like
  • The fam gets outside (hello Vitamin D)
  • If the kids cooperate, you can get some good pics
  • Exercise creates endorphins (and who couldn’t do with those these days?)

Alternatively, you can go the pre-picked route. The farm will pick the berries for you, and although they might cost slightly more, you’re still likely to get a good deal in comparison to the the grocery store, and with a fresher product. Not everyone likes getting out in the fields (no judgment here) and pre-picked is certainly more convenient. In addition to buying pre-picked berries at the farm, a number of farmers market vendors provide the same product brought to you.

Contributor Favorite Berry Farms

This year is (understandably) a little different than most, but there are many farms in the area still offering u-pick availability but with amended safety procedures. Please check with each farm to find information related to this year’s operation.

Here are some of our contributors’ favorite places to get their berries:

Hoffman Farms (Beaverton)

Lee Farms (Tualatin)

Smith Berry Barn (Hillsboro)

Bi-Zi Farms (Vancouver)

Columbia Farms (Sauvie Island)

Duyck’s Peachy Pig Farm (Cornelius)

The Fruit Loop (Hood River)

Young boy in a yellow shirt, gray and purple shorts, and red boots walking beside a train track carrying a carton of rasperberries with a farm and farm equipment in the background
My son looking VERY serious on our latest raspberry picking trip

Once you’ve acquired your berry bounty, this begs the question:

What can I do with all of these delicious berries? 

Fresh Berry Ideas

Eat the Berries

While it may seem obvious, eating your fresh berries just as nature provided them is perfectly acceptable. You might want to give them a quick wash and then nom away.

Preserve the Berries

Preserving fresh berries is a great way to extend the amount of time that you’re able to consume them. As long as you use proper techniques, you can have berries year-round via:

  • Jam/Preserves

There are a number of recipes out there for jams and preserves both with and without pectin. Just prepare to put in the time. This is a favorite recipe of mine for strawberry jam that uses the natural pectin found in lemon and apple.

There’s also this thing called freezer jam – it’s an alternative method that cuts down on the cooking time and doesn’t require canning.

  • Canning

Canning is a means of sterilizing and preserving food in a can Mason jar, often using heat and pressure.

  • Syrup

Fruit syrup can be used to add wonderful flavor to all kinds of foods: pancakes, ice cream, coffee, you know name it! If you make a large batch, consider combining with a preservation method (like canning) and storing in multiple smaller containers. This way, you only have to get through smaller amounts at a time.

Person's hand holding a cup with homemade yogurt and strawberry jam in front of a backdrop of green plants
Fellow contributor Lee Ann with her freezer jam and HOMEMADE yogurt

Inebriate the Berries

Looking for a adult beverage means of utilizing your berries. Fruit and alcohol go together like, well… fruit and alcohol. They’re a great combination. I mean, wine is made from fruit after all.

  • Sangria

The fruit punch for adults! A good sangria screams summertime in a glass. There are a ton of different recipes for any combination of berries you could imagine.

  • Margarita

Fellow contributor, Brandee, made this wonderful suggestion and I couldn’t agree more. For a quick berry margarita, use equal parts tequila and your fruit syrup of choice. Add a splash of lime juice, shake, throw it over the rocks, and viola! You have yourself the berry beverage every parent in quarantine deserves.

Make a Very Berry “Ice Cream”

Okay, ice cream is in quotation marks here because it’s not quite the same as if you involved a great deal of churning. What I’m saying is, this version, with cream and condensed milk, is much easier. My friend Karen even mentioned that her family just chucks the ingredients into a blender, just kind of winging it, and it still turns out fine.

Put Berries in All.Of.The.Carbs.

I’m talking muffins. I’m talking pancakes. You know I’m talking pies and cobblers and all of the desserts too. Oh, and do NOT sell me short because you know I’m not about to forget the donuts.

Bring all the Boys to the Yard

With your berry milkshakes of course. I mean, I could teach you but I’d have to charge… just kidding, here’s a recipe!

You Can Pickle That!

No, this is not another Portlandia sketch, pickled fruit is totally a thing! During my youth, my dad would rave about pickled peaches (we lived in North Carolina), so the idea of pickled cherries in Oregon is not entirely foreign (and I’m glad my friend Amber suggested them).

Frozen Berry Ideas

Now that we’ve tackled the fresh berry ideas, let’s move on to freezing. Berries are easy to freeze (i.e. put them in a freezer-safe container and then into said freezer. Done.) and keep pretty well. This equates to you getting as much as possible during peak season.

Freeze them and eat them

Again here with the obvious, I know. But frozen blueberries are still one of my favorite snacks on a hot summer day. It’s like a tiny little popsicle in every bite. Speaking of which…

Summer Berry Popsicles

Popsicles are the perfect summer treat for kiddos. By making your own, you can forego the added sugar that comes in many popsicles from the grocery store. There are numerous recipes online that you can find, some with dairy, some with a little citrus soda, but I usually stick with the classic (and easy) all fruit popsicle. As long as you have some popsicle molds and blender, you’re ready to go.

Smoothies

Berries are a great addition to just about any smoothie. They add a sweetness that can combine relatively easily with any number of fruits and veggies. They’re also pretty low in calories but high in antioxidants and a number of vitamins and minerals. If you’re looking for an easy way to get a nutritious breakfast, smoothies are a great option (and you can meal prep them too).

What are you doing with your berries this year? Do you have a go-to recipe? Share in the comments.

Preserving Summer: A Simple Guide to Canning and Freezing Produce

Preserving foods is a fantastic and frugal way to stock your pantry and freezer so you can have fresh, summer meals all year long. While it may sound old fashioned, overly domestic and perhaps a bit time-consuming, preserving is actually quite simple and a great way to save money and time otherwise spent grocery shopping. It’s often even healthier than buying store-bought canned and frozen foods throughout the seasons. A lot of canned food in stores contains unnecessary sugar, sodium and other preservatives that you can easily substitute or omit completely in canning from home, and frozen foods are not always prepared properly to maintain their nutritional value.

Preserving SummerThere are many options available for preserving your foods. You can grow your own fruits and veggies yourself, or buy boxes in season from local farms or grocers. Then, preserve them while they are still fresh, or even prepare meals and sauces for canning and freezing as well. Below are a few simple tips and recipes that can help you stock your pantry and freezer this fall and winter!

freezerFreezing

Freezing your foods can be as simple as buying a box of Ziploc freezer bags, or as complex as using a Foodsaver vacuum sealer. Whichever way you decide to go, freezing fresh fruits, vegetables and prepared foods is a fantastic way to feed your family well-rounded meals using whole instead of processed ingredients, throughout the year.

Every summer and fall, I make and freeze jars of applesauce, chicken/vegetable stock, roasted tomato marinara, and basil pesto. Vegetables like peas, green beans and corn can be shucked, cut and then blanched and frozen in Ziploc bags, while zucchini can be shredded and pumpkin cooked and cut up for freezer bags as well. Fruits like cherries, berries and even apple slices can be flash frozen and then put in bags for pies and crisps!

Canning

Canning does require a few items to invest in, but you can often find them discounted this time of year, or free or cheap if you get them secondhand. Thankfully, canners, canning tools and even jars and rings can be reused over and over again, so if you do invest in some, they pay for themselves after just a few uses.canned

While some may say that the high heat of canning removes a lot of the nutrition in raw fruits and vegetables, I would argue that if I can’t get fresh and local green beans, pumpkins and tomatoes in the winter, I would rather have my own in glass jars than those with preservatives in aluminum cans from the store. Furthermore, if I’m going to buy canned pickles, sauerkraut, applesauce, jams and jellies, I might as well make them myself!

But how much time do I spend preparing all these things over a hot stove for several weeks, you ask? Well, I have found that by freezing and canning produce from my own garden as it ripens or buying boxes of fruits and vegetables as they are in season throughout the summer and fall, I actually can break up these preserving jobs. Frankly, I don’t think I spend any more time canning and freezing than I would shopping at the store for them each week during the winter! But to give you an idea of what a simple, seasonal preserving schedule looks like, here is what I follow, and some of the favorite recipes I use…

June/July:

  • Shuck peas, blanch and freeze in Ziploc bags
  • Shred and freeze zucchini in Ziploc bags
  • Flash freeze strawberries, and/or make jelly and jam

July:

August:

September:

appleasauce

October:

Are you willing to try canning and freezing? What are some of your favorite preserving tips and recipes?

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