Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tips for loving winter

Many people use January as a time to enforce various forms of deprivation, but I question that logic when the weather is already depriving us of so much.  I mean: winter!  You can't move freely outside, you can't get warm, and some days you can't even step off a curb without your foot sinking into slush that goes straight into your boots.  Who wants to live on lettuce at a time like that?

Today I thought I'd review some strategies for making this often less-than-charming season just a little more bearable - or, at least,  no worse than it absolutely has to be - even if you are not a Winter Sport Person.

Get the Gear

Of course we all know this one, but I figure if I still drop the ball most years it's worth mentioning anyway:
mitts or gloves
warm coat
good boots

And when I say 'good', I mean waterproof and easy to wipe clean from salt or mud, not cute and fashionable, though sometimes it's possible to combine both. 

It's also worth having backups for these items, in sets if possible so you don't find yourself one bitter February morning in depressingly mismatched mittens and a clashing hat and scarf combo just because your usual accessories are still soaked from a wet snowstorm the day before. 

Boots too: sometimes they get wet inside no matter how much you've waterproofed them, and you have to give the liners time to dry.  Alternate boots are such a bonus in that situation - there is nothing like being warm and dry and looking as put-together as it is possible to be while resembling a giant burdened snow monster, to make you feel less awful about the icy wind nearly knocking you over as you trudge to the dentist's.

Your hat especially should be warm but not itchy, and roomy but not so much so that it slips down over your eyes with a single push from the collar of your coat, just as you are crossing a busy street.  Whatever you use for your hands should be warm enough for the weather you get in your area, and precious enough to you that you check for them often and therefore don't lose them.  (I still managed to lose a twined, handspun mitten last winter in spite of compulsive admiring gazes upon them.  Thankfully it was still where I left it when I got back.)


I'm not talking about hat and mitts here, but this important checklist:
hand sanitizer
tissues for the inevitable runny nose
lip balm
hand cream

That last one is super important because it will only be a few short weeks, max, before your skin is so sore from all the washing and the dry air that you have paper cuts on the back of your knuckles.  Keep small packages of all these things handy in your bag or pocket and have extras ready near your front door to take with you when they suddenly run out.

Hand cream is a tough one, because - at least where I live - all the easiest ones to find and carry have rather a lot of carcinogens in them.  I usually default to John Masters Blood Orange and Vanilla body milk because it smells fantastic and is easy to pour into a little travel size bottle.  Shea butter is another good option, as long as it's almost all shea butter... a lot of manufacturers label a thing Shea but put in a lot of stuff that is pretty nasty.

Clean Something

I don't suggest this lightly because I really, really hate cleaning, but the truth is that you can mitigate some of the misery of winter if at least one part of your at-home experience is pristine.  I recommend picking something you look at a lot without actively messing it up, because any work you do there will last longest with the least effort.

For me, it's the washer and dryer I use every day - they get dusty, and surrounded by odds and ends I've pulled out of pockets.  Two minutes spent tidying that stuff away and wiping the control panels down with a sock I'm about to toss into the washer and Wow!  Suddenly it's a cheerful place to be.

Other options: cleaning tea stains out of your kitchen sink with baking soda and a scrubbie, wiping up the bunnies in that one corner the vacuum cleaner never quite got to last time, dusting the top of the fan over your stove, straightening the shoes at the door.   (you could also put yarn away, but you know that's all exploding again in a day or two so accept that going in.)

Whatever you pick - the minute you get home feeling overwhelmed and soggy and snuffly, go to that place to regroup, mentally cropping out everything around it that might still be messy.  Yes, others may laugh if they notice you breathing deeply and repeating 'all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well' while staring at your range hood, but Ha! you will get the last laugh, eventually.

Pamper yourself

Plan ahead for something nice you can do for yourself at the end of a day you know will be extra gross because of storms or doctor's appointments or whatever.  Have most of a supper ready to assemble, or wash and set out a pair of great pyjamas, or remember to bring with you a gift card for coffee or hot chocolate at your cafe of choice and treat yourself on your way home from the yuck.

This is an excellent time of year to buy a new sweater, even if it's one you'll probably only wear around the house, and especially if it's going to be roomy and soft and cosy, like a hug from a sheep or mountain alpaca that's had a bath and some training in human social etiquette.  Yum.

And if you don't knit socks, make sure you have some super cosy slippers to warm your cold-from-outside toes!

Stick to an early bedtime with lots of nice blankets to kick off in the night after you realize you're too hot after all.  And make sure you've got a good book to reach for if you really can't sleep yet - something peaceful and not too cliffhangery, that makes you feel good about the weather.  Robert Macfarlane's opening description of a night walk after a heavy snow from The Old Ways is positively dreamy.

Be Prepared

Even if you are able to do all the things I've listed here, thereby minimizing your stress and maximizing your rest... you are probably going to get sick this winter.  So take care not to get too far behind on anything like bills or any major administrative task.  That way, when you do fall out of commission, it won't matter if your bug lasts a whole week.

Do not wait to get together with an elderly friend!  Do it while you're healthy. 

Also: do not run out of your go-to cold remedies.  The moment you feel awful is the same moment you might not even be able, let alone willing, to get out to the store to pick up throat lozenges, lemons and honey, instant chicken broth, tissues, or painkillers.  I speak from experience and I'm sure you've been there too.

And I think that's enough about winter for today, don't you?  Hope yours is getting off to an easy start and I'll see you tomorrow!

(ps: don't these little hearts cut from felted wool sweaters make you think about sewing up a ton of little blanket stitch heart badges for Valentine's?  they do me.)

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