In Praise of Huckleberries: A Taste of the Northwest

by Nicole Sheets
( August 29th, 2014 )

Huckleberry Haul

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest four years ago, I learned quickly that this is Huckleberry Country. (Huckleberry Country is also a pretty good name for a band that might play at, say, the Saturday farmers market or a street fair).

I was familiar with Huckleberries of the Finn and Hound variety. But I’d never thought of them as raw materials for pie, nor did I understand why people swooned at the mere mention of huckleberry pancakes or ice cream.

I’d read that huckleberries aren’t cultivated. You have to go into wild, or pay someone else to, if you want these treats. So far, there’s not a great way to grow them commercially. The untamed spirit of the berry makes a great metaphor for the American West. It’s a sweet-tart edible version of one of those wooden plaques with an eagle carved over an American flag.

A friend describes huckleberries as the anti-consumer fruit. This isn’t to say that there aren’t shelves full of huckleberry products. But the local berries aren’t like blueberries air freighted in all year. We don’t get huckleberries on demand.

When some friends, including this blogger, invited me to go to huckleberry picking with them earlier this month, I said sure thing. I was the only first-timer. I knew my assimilation to the PNW wouldn’t be complete without a huckleberry picking merit badge. We headed up to Mt. Spokane State Park because the berries prefer a “mid-alpine” climate.

I didn’t even have a bucket to put them in, so a friend loaned me her Party Pail ice cream container (shown in the photo below). One member of the group brought two small Tupperware containers, probably less than two cups each, with lids. We mocked. Girl, have you no ambition? Why would you bring dinky little Tupperware? But after almost spilling my bucket for the second time, I recognized the wisdom of the lid.

Huckleberry Picking Outfit

As you can see, I chose my berry-picking attire with care. The sun hat was a good call. I opted for the plaid shorts because of their berry shades. Even so, I managed to sit on fruit that left a rather unladylike splotch on the back of them. The rest of the berry pickers wore black shorts and pants. Genius. I also had the chance to break out my American Apparel fanny pack for hands-free access to my camera and chap stick, vital equipment for any berry picker.

What do huckleberries taste like, my mom asked. A good question, and I didn’t have a simple answer. The closest I’ve come is like a cross between a blueberry and a cherry, but with the lightness of citrus, too. One site describes their taste as “as tasting like a blueberry, raspberry and cranberry all together.” 

So, when you’re up on the mountain, how do you know that these berries you’re eating and dropping into your bucket aren’t, like, from The Hunger Games? My strategy was to go with people who’ve done this before. Dea, from Live.Eat.Travel. has a more evidence-based approach: “[L]ook for the little crown on the top that you see on a blueberry. That is unique to all vacciniums (the blueberry family) and means that it is edible.” In fact, I refer you to Dea’s tutorial on picking huckleberries.

I learned that berry picking is slow work. Now wonder these little gems are so pricey. Our containers of berries were like rare money we had to spend carefully, and soon. Would you blow them all on a pie? Would you ration them, little by little, into your pancakes?

In a couple of hours, I picked enough huckleberries to make one crisp. I used the “four fruit crisp” recipe from Simply in Season, one of my favorite Mennonite cookbooks. If I’d had any berries left over, I’d have mixed up some huckleberry mojitos to enjoy in this primo backyard-sitting weather.

And though they say you’re supposed to keep your huckleberry-picking spots a secret—like fishing holes or the workings of a magic trick—here’s a look at mine.

Huckleberry Picking Spot

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Product Review: Sky’s the Limit with Anatomie’s Skyler Skinny Pants

by Nicole Sheets
( August 7th, 2014 )

Anatomie Skyler Skinny Dark Grey

It’s one thing to love a pair of pants. It’s quite another thing to find pants that love you back.

Recently the folks at Anatomie sent me their Skyler Skinny Pants in dark grey (like those shown above. Those are not my abs, though I would order those if I could.) They’re also offered in Navy, Black, Khaki, and Electric Blue; this latter shade is more like deep denim color than 80s eyeshadow.

Skyler Skinny Black

The pants live up to their reputation as an alternative to skinny jeans. You could fancy up the Skyler with cute sandals or heels or take the trails in your hiking boots. For example, I wore them (with flip flops) on a walk to the Spokane River, not far from my house. It was the end of another hot day, and I wanted to plunk my feet in some cold water among the river rocks. The Anatomie pants were breathable and kept me from feeling sweaty (or schweddy.) WanderHubs affirmed that they looked cute. I should institute a WanderHubs rating scale, perhaps one to five guitars or something, for product reviews. Stay tuned.

Anatomie Skyler Skinny Khaki

My favorite feature of the Skyler is that the comfy fabric comes in such a streamlined silhouette. I hadn’t heard of “French honiara fabric” before. Honiara could be a protagonist in a giant,sweeping Victorian novel. The Anatomie site has many modifiers for this ”super-light-weight Nylon-Lycra Micro Fiber” textile, made of  ”92% polyamide and 8% elasthane.” 

Anatomie’s attention to fabric in its “luxury sportswear” makes sense, given that  Kate Boyer, one of the founders of the brand, is a former gymnast and fitness instructor.

I appreciate that there are snaps rather than a button above the front zipper closure. This is more durable hardware. I don’t have strong feelings about the oversized belt loops. The Skyler fit is rather booty-snug, so the back pockets are more ornamental than practical.

If the Skyler isn’t the look for you, check out Anatomie’s Find Your Pant guide.

Anatomie presents itself as an upscale brand. At first I felt very aware of my Kmart roots. The site offers personalized styling sessions “allowing [customers] to shop from the comfort of their living room, on board their yacht, in between sessions at the spa or anywhere that has an internet connection.” Can I wear these pants if a Hamptons Weekend is not in my travel forecast? If I’m bothered in a way I can’t quite pinpoint by the Safari Collection’s claim to “utmost African chicness”? If my yacht is in the shop?

Browsing Anatomie’s Set to Jet lookbooks is a chance to check out their styles and, perhaps, launch some dream vacations.

Well made pants a treasure, no matter where you wear them.

 


Photo Credit: anatomiestyle.com

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Product Review: Rockport Total Motion Mid Pump

by Nicole Sheets
( July 28th, 2014 )

 

Rockport Total Motion

“Those are Rockports?” WanderHubs asked.

I confess I’d had a similar thought before I checked out the brand’s recent lookbooks. These styles are a far cry from the humorless, sensible shoes fancied by retired schoolteachers and or devoted wearers of pleated slacks (my Nana Sheets included. She had a sense of humor, even if her shoes did not).

The folks at Rockport recently sent me a pair of their Total Motion Mid Pump, shown above. It’s available in a variety of luxurious neutrals. Though let’s be honest: for Wanderchic, if it’s a contest between Taupe and Python, we know who’s going to win. The versatility of the print is one of my favorite features: it’s professional yet playful.

Rockport Python Pump

This pump has nearly a three-inch heel, which is a bit higher than I usually wear. Rockport also offers this print in other styles, including their “Seven to 7 ” line, such as the Low Pump (more like a kitten heel) and in a Peep-toe Wedge. NB: Both styles happen to be on sale at right this moment.

One big selling point of the Total Motion collection is the Adidas ADIPRENE+ technology, designed to “bend the rules of movement.” The insole is squishy soft, as though they’ve snuck a slipper into a pump. The shoe feels stable and springy, a bit like a running shoe in pump’s clothing. I imagine that, given the materials in the sole and heel, these shoes are pretty much impossible to repair. It’s a bummer, and one that stretches pretty much all across our contemporary shoescape.

Rockport Total Motion Sole

Size-wise, the shoes run a bit big. I’m usually a 10.5, though a 10 in the Mid Pump would be closer to that glove-like fit. (It’s a rarity to encounter a 10.5 at all, much less to find it a bit roomy.)

I sprayed the shoes with leather protectant to ward off the Northwest rain. That’s not an issue these days, but these shoes will transition seamlessly into Fall and maybe even Winter with the right tights. I’m looking forward to putting more miles on them.

Rockport with cat

 

Photo Credits: rockport.com and WanderHubs

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