25 things we're thankful for
Thanksgiving isn't just about food and family—it's a time to reflect on what we're most thankful for. Here are Sunset editors' most cherished Western places, plants, products, and more
Our trees are a treat
Is there anything that beats a long, leisurely fall drive? Sure, tree-fawning is well-trod ground, but we love the riot of color that grips the West each fall. And, from gold-leafed aspens and oaks in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to red-tipped maples in Ukiah, CA, there’s a Crayola-hued outing for everyone.
We adore this unsung autumn fruit, which can be best savored starting in November when it's ready to be harvested (in other words, fully colored with that amazing shade of orange). Whether you're growing persimmons in your garden or shopping for them at the market, here are some recipes that make the seasonal ingredient sing:
Earthy, handmade ceramics
A bowl or plate with real heft and the telltale marks of the artist are just plain homey. On the dinner table (even on weeknights) they remind us to take pleasure in the simple things, like how fabulous green salad looks in an earthen bowl. One Western producer we particularly love: Heath Ceramics.
Wine: Our biggest crush
There’s no denying we love our wine—and that the West is home to some of the country’s best. And, now that crush season has eased, Western wine country is yours for the sipping: Compare Pinots in Willamette Valley, Cabs in Yakima, or skip from tasting rooms to Michelin-starred restaurants in Napa.
For fresh, rich flavor and sheer toasty decadence, nothing compares to hazelnuts from Oregon, where virtually all the U.S. crop grows. Look for them in your grocery store or buy them at yournw.com—and incorporate them into a sensational dish, like the one pictured (which happens to be a Thanksgiving hit).
Living in the West affords us year-round opportunities to enjoy our outdoor spaces. A firepit is the ultimate addition during cooler months, giving your backyard a cozy, campfire touch. Plus it's an instant hit at any party.
More: 38 ideas for firepits
Bald eagles are back
Thanks to massive recovery efforts over the past 30-plus years, the bald eagle is soaring once more (it was pulled from the endangered-species list in 2007). Current population count is somewhere around 10,000 nesting pairs, the bulk of which live in Alaska and Canada. In November, celebrate their revival at the Bald Eagle Festival in Haines, Alaska. baldeagles.org/festival
Pumpkin and chocolate
Two great flavors taste even better when you serve them together.
Imaginative designers and builders
Almost every week, a new way of living seems to pop on our radar: cargotecture, microapartments, prefabs, the revival of straw-bale homes, and passive homes. Who is driving these thoughtful and interesting changes that will filter down to improve all our living situations? The West’s forward-looking talent.
We can plant greens even in November—how lucky are we? Sow seeds early in the month and keep planting beds evenly watered.
More: How to grow greens
We’ve long considered the San Juan Islands a Northwest treasure. But in 2012, President Obama made it official: These evergreen-studded gems are now a national monument—and just as beautiful in stormy, damp November as they are in springtime.
Lately we've been branching out from the classic sweet spices of the season to more savory spice blends like dukkah, which does amazing things for vegetables.
Paneled wood walls, be they logs or slats, no longer signals “country.” Instead, this natural material is getting a mod reputation by being paired with modern elements and clean lines. And the wider visibility of FSC certification means we can feel good about it, too.
Surfing, a way of life in many parts of the West—and fascinating even if you’re not a Laird Hamilton wannabe—is at its thrilling best in November. That’s when Pacific storms begin to generate huge waves on Oahu’s North Shore, drawing pro surfers and thousands of spectators who gather for the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series.
Our favorite varieties for baking—juicy Comice and dense Bosc—come into the market just when we're in the mood to crank up our ovens.
More: 25 ways with pears
These homemade lanterns add seasonal glow to the backyard and keep us outside for longer. Bonus: they're super easy to make, using materials you can find in your local hardware and craft stores.
More: DIY tap-light luminarias
We don’t live in segregated categories—for the next hour I’m a reader of early 20th-century fiction, and after that I’m a foodie, until I get into my next home project—so why would we shop that way? Great examples of a clever retail remix are Lawson-Fenning in L.A. (pictured) and Book/Shop in Oakland. Sure, they both sell books, but each shop also has a stash of handsome furniture, quirky art, and small goods.
The variety of colors and shapes makes squash beautiful just to look at. In recipes, they're the star of the season—sweet, satisfying, and nutritious, too.
The San Francisco Bay Area's climate graces us with the most impressive outdoor botanic garden. Catch the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest Collection in bloom at the San Francisco Botanic Garden through December. See 25-foot-tall tree dahlias, golden fuchsias (Deppea splendens), and the stars of the show, tree daisies (Montanoa spp)—flowering trees that reach over 100 feet tall and litter the floor with petals referred to as “San Francisco snow.” Free; sfbg.org
Two words: Big. Sur.
Arguably the prettiest stretch of pavement the world over, the Big Sur Highway winds past some of the West's greatest hits—staggering redwoods, dramatic cliffs, Pacific beaches—in 72 breathtaking miles. In November, the region hosts an up-and-coming food and wine fest (www.bigsurfoodandwine.org).
This family of vegetables that includes endive, escarole, and radicchio has a pleasantly bitter edge and goes beautifully with fall fruits and nuts. Enjoy them in delectable recipes such as the seasonal salad pictured here.
Permission to unplug
Finally, we don’t have to feel bad about turning off our phones, closing the laptops, and ignoring Facebook’s notifications. Turns out tuning out is good for us.
More: The unplugged home
Powder for days
We have the hands-down best powder in the country. Let the East Coast keep those icy slopes. Skiers know to come West for the greatest light and fluffy stuff, and this month some of our most powder-packed resorts—including Utah's Alta Ski Area (alta.com), Wyoming's Grand Targhee Resort (grandtarghee.com), and Colorado's Wolf Creek Ski Area (wolfcreekski.com)—open up for the season.
More: Skiing in the West
They lend an earthy sweetness to so many fall dishes, but for a really fun (and delicious) surprise, try them in cupcakes.
The West's beautiful natural materials provide ample fodder for foraging that you can transform into elegant home décor. For example, this wreath was made with eucalyptus pods and leaves, lotus pods, and leucospermum found on a walk.