Mendocino Winters

The Holiday Season is over and it's really winter now. Sometimes it's dark outside all day long and our wood heat barely gets the house warm; then we have to back it up with an electric heater. We have cold winters here on the Mendocino Coast. It isn't cold in the classic way, with ice, snow and deep frosts, but it often rains and cold winds blow. Storms wipe our electricity out, and it's a good time to stay inside. I have grown fond of our winters.

When I moved here from Southern California, I had the wrong clothes and footwear for our weather, and I hated it. I never felt warm and dry unless I was in bed under lots of covers or I had just come out of the sauna.

My husband was fond of taking long mushroom walks in the woods, and while I thought they were beautiful and other worldly, I always came home soaked to the skin and cold. It wasn't until years later when I discovered how delicious they were and how to identify them that I was able to appreciate mushroom walks. By that time I had the right clothing and warm waterproof boots.

During that time, nearly fifty years ago, I discovered the true value of herbal tea. While I had always loved hot cider, I hadn't had much in the way of herbal tea. I started learning about the warming teas, especially those made with ginger, and began experimenting with them. In those days, I often added alcohol to the tea drinks. Now I find the tea to be enough.

I still take mushroom walks. Mushrooms are a staple for us in the fall and into the winter during wet years. I love finding them, it feels like an Easter Egg Hunt to me. Then I get to come home with my bounty to cook up something delectable. My friend Alison Gardner has just released a wonderful cookbook called The Wild Mushroom Cookbook, and I recommend it. She has thought of lots of things to do with mushrooms that never occurred to me. She has even invented a Candy Cap Chai that we will be adding to our tea on our website soon.

I encourage you to find ways to love your winters. I know it's cold and miserable outside, but it's marvelous to have time to discover the goodness inside. Winter is the time of year when we can enjoy the smallest things, like a good cup of tea, hot soup, jigsaw puzzles and board games. I hope you find your small joys now too.
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