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“If you can’t get out of something, get into it.”
The more I thought about what I wanted to write in this post, the more I realised how much I actually appreciate the winter. There are the least amount of expectations, inner and outer, around the winter. The other seasons, while having their charms and pleasures, have a lot of expectations around them so you can feel like you are always gearing up for something: spring cleaning, house projects and garden projects, the pressure of taking advantage of the summer as much as possible because you feel like it is so fleeting, having a really great summer vacation, people’s disappointment when the weather does not live up to their dreams of summer, the end of summer and the start of the new school year and activities, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas Holidays, New Year. I embrace winter because that period after 6 January 2017 (when our Christmas tree and decorations get put away) until the start of spring is like a breather from the demands of the rest of the year. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because after the holiday, I’m not usually energized to make big changes. Instead, I like to take this time to recoup and indulge in comfort and the haven that is home.
I will admit that I got a bit of a shock when I first landed in Montreal from sunny South Africa, where I grew up, in early January. It was in that moment that I realised that I had never really known cold before. I had envisioned weekends swooshing down the slopes (knowing me it was more of the lure of what I imagined apres-ski to be: roaring log fires, cushy arm chairs, a steaming tea, and an absorbing book). I am not much of an athlete so I’m not sure why I had this notion of me suddenly picking up skiing, but I did. Reality check: me making my way down the hill (I wish I could say it was a mountain) over a span of almost 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours to get down the hill once. I would panic when I picked up too much speed and to stop myself, I would throw my poles aside and fall over. My then-boyfriend, now-husband would have to hoist me up and look for my poles so that we could begin the exercise all over again. Children passed me, joyous in their swooshing while their well-meaning parents shouted “Courage!” to me. When we arrived at the bottom of the hill, it was gently suggested that I take some lessons. My athletic abilities have not improved much since then but I have come to enjoy being outside in winter, especially after a good snowfall and have learned to appreciate winter for the lovely things that she brings and manage the stuff that makes the season challenging. I think I may have been a bear or a squirrel in a past life because I like to ready myself for the winter before the true cold actually sets in.
Lighten the Load
The thing that stresses me most in the winter is having to drive somewhere when the weather is really bad. To lighten the winter load, I try to do less and be prepared by:
- reducing the kids’ after school activities and keeping appointments to a minimum
- taking advantage of convenient services like Provigo’s Click & Collect service, which I plan to use quite a bit this winter
- preparing for the cold by making sure we are all kitted out with boots, hats, gloves, jackets, thermals etc. before we need them
- stockpiling pantry items, freezer items, household items, and toiletries so that grocery runs and errands are shorter and lighter. Subscribers can access the editable and printable version of the list here: Subscriber Exclusive Content.
Make the Unpleasant Pleasant
Three of the things that a lot of people find hardest about the winter is the getting out of bed, commuting, and the dark.
Getting out of bed
Growing up in South Africa, the winters were certainly not on the same level as a Canadian winter but we had no central heating and our house had large windows so the mornings could be chilly. My mom would sneak into our rooms before we had to get out of bed and turn on our little space heaters and bring us hot cups up tea on particularly cold mornings. It was such a warm and loving way to be woken up. To make getting out of bed a little easier:
- Use a really good insulated bottle like those from S’well (amazon.com*, amazon.ca*) and make your favourite hot morning beverage before you go to bed at night. Leave it and a mug on your bedside table so that you can enjoy it when you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed, and warm yourself from the inside out.
- Keep a warm and cosy robe and slippers right next to your bed so you can slip right into them.
- If its the dark that makes it the most challenging to get out of bed, try a wake up light alarm clock like this one: amazon.ca or this one: amazon.com*
- Be prepared, make sure you have an emergency kit, shovel, extra gloves, scraper, and windshield washer fluid in your car.
- Since finding a few really good podcasts, I’ve started looking forward to my commute. Be mindful of what you listen to and pick things that will positively affect your mood. A few of my favourites with some suggested episodes to start with:
- Serial is gripping. You may find part of yourself wishing your commute was longer. Each season follows a true story. Season 1 tells the story of Adnan who is sentenced to life in prison at 17 years old for the death of his ex-girlfriend, a high-school senior named Hae Min Lee. His conviction was based mainly on the account of one witness, his friend Jay, who claimed that he helped bury Hae’s body. Adnan has always maintained his innocence. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t. The story is complicated and so many more questions unfold as you find out more. Once you have listened to all the episodes of Serial and want to delve deeper into the case, you can listen to Undisclosed.
- Happier: Gretchen Rubin is an author (most well known for her book, “The Happiness Project”) and hosts the podcast with her sister, Elizabeth Craft (a television writer, producer, and showrunner). They chat about strategies for happiness and good habits. They also discuss different personality tendencies and how to figure out which one you are and how to make it work for you as well as how best to communicate and understand the people in your life who may be another tendency :). I like that they are not prescriptive. They don’t say “this is the way” to do things. The focus is more about knowing who you are, accepting and embracing it, and figuring out the best way to approach life for you. They are interesting, helpful, engaging, candid, and kind. Start with Ep. 1: The One-Minute Rule
- How To Be Amazing: Michael Ian Black does some really great interviews with interesting people. Try Ep. 22 Baratunde Thurston – they talk about his upbringing, race, politics, community and a few other topics in a way that matters, and is smart, funny and entertaining.
- Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations Try Cookie Johnson: Why She Stood by Magic Johnson Through It All and Howard Schultz: Pouring Your Heart into Your Business.
- If podcasts aren’t your thing, try audio books or create playlists of your favorite songs (Spotify is great for this).
- If you have kids, have some kind of audio entertainment for them lined up on your phone as well as some snacks for those times that the commute turns out to be much longer than usual (keep them driver accessible).
My first child would not nap unless she was being pushed in her stroller. She really needed to nap so I walked her everyday right through the winter, unless there was heavy freezing rain. That was the year I came to appreciate winter and really noticed how beautiful it can be. This winter I want to spend more time outside. There are big and small ways to enjoy the outside (bonus: winter is mosquito-free):
- drink hot chocolate and roast marshmallows and or make s’mores outside (you can use a ready to go disposable grill like this one*)
- have a BBQ outside on a sunny winter day
- note that the daylight is already starting to linger longer with each day of winter
- build forts and snow men
- go tobogganing/sledding/tubing/skating
- walk in the woods
- walk around your neighborhood in the evening – snow has a way of making the world feel quieter and the way it shimmers under streetlights is just so pretty
- attend local winter carnivals and events
- try something you haven’t yet like dog sledding or snow shoeing
- stay in an ice hotel (Quebec, Sweden, Norway) – one of my most memorable holidays and something I plan to do with my kids when they are a bit older.
Enjoy Being Inside
The winter is also a great reason to be snug and warm inside and:
- have movie/TV show marathons
- play games (board game recommendations by age: 21 Games That are Fast and Easy to Play)
- cook and eat slowly – take time to prepare comfort food that both tastes good and makes you feel good (Click for printable recipes: Beef Stew Recipe for Print; Aubergine and Tomato Recipe for Print).
- have company over and indulge in the above together
- have a hot bath and do a face mask (my favourite hydrating mask which I always use after a clay mask and makes my skin feel amazing and is especially good in the winter: Clarins Hydraquench)
- if summer is all you long for then take the winter to dream and make your plans: create your summer bucket list, plan your next vacation.
What do you love about winter?