If you are reading in the Northern hemisphere today, your thoughts may be turning to preparations for a long winter. You may be thinking “How am I going to get through? Do I have enough yarn? Can I be sure I am pronouncing ‘hygge’ the right way? Have I anything to look forward to after the holidays? And how can I tempt my friends out into the snow for a visit?”
I am here to help. (Friends in the Southern hemisphere: carry on with your beach days and picnics; I am glued to your Insta. And bookmark this piece for next March.)
For everyone else, some suggestions to ward off the chill and also the bleakness:
- Host a soup exchange party. Invite three friends to quadruple their favorite freezable soup, and bring the results to the party in containers. Eat some, trade some, and share the recipes. My favorite is the red chile from Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam. You don’t need to be paleo to enjoy this dish! (You can find a slow cooker version here but if you have a big Dutch oven, the stovetop method is even better. It’s about three hours in the oven, which helps the ambient house temp. For vegetarians, another warming soup is Anna Thomas’s cream of poblano from Love Soup.
- Beans! Winter is made for beans. Cassoulet is a recipe you probably know as the thing that takes 72 hours and a degree from culinary school. Mais non, madame! There’s a faster way and it’s just as delicious. It still needs overnight, but this is another dish that will keep your oven on for a while.
- If you want last-minute beans, there’s a cheesy beans recipe going around that takes less time to make than explain. Put salt, pepper, paprika, tomato paste, garlic and oil in a pan and cook until fragrant. Add beans (canned or cooked ahead), grate cheese over, and pop in the oven until it’s riled up. A delicious home-alone meal that you’ll start eating before you can set it on the table.
- Get you a winter sport. I’ve been hearing this advice since I first moved to New England, where I also first heard that old chestnut about how there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes. Knitters, do they even have bad clothes? Certainly not. So maybe this is the year I get snowshoes…?
- Stock up on the cozy wintry books. If you’re a fan of the Wilders, there’s always The Long Winter to make you feel lucky. If you’re “the Wilders are maybe a little problematic” person, have you read Bich Minh Nguyen’s Pioneer Girl? It is a wonderful Wilder response and a real page turner. And there’s also Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House books, a period series about an indigenous family in the North Woods. On my list!
- Or you could be ambitious, and undertake a whole Reading Project, which I always think about doing and never really do but is always upper-cased in my mind.
- If you live with someone, take turns making coffee and bringing it back to bed for your partner. (This is actually my number one tip.)
- Coat drive! I just cleaned out my coat closet, thanks to some expert engineering advice I got earlier this month at the MDK Odious Tasks Party. (Yes I know it doesn’t seem like you need an engineer to clear out a closet, but: BELIEVE.) Anyway guess what? There were some extra coats in there! One Warm Coat tells how you can help others stay warm in your area.
- You could have a sock-mending party, on the Zoom or in person. This November, I do not have one single pair of warm socks without holes in them. I’m sure it would be easier to address this situation with friends nearby.
- I hear they have electric bed warmers. This from a reliable source. However I am devoted to my hot water bottle because I am 600 years old and my technology is rubber. Knitty has a free penguin bottle cover pattern here. I don’t have black yarn, but what’s wrong with a pink penguin?
- Window stars! I mean. They’re not technically a window insulator but beauty helps keep us warm.
- You could have a puzzle exchange. There’s still a lot of us doing jigsaw puzzles right now and we could be circulating our stashes. I’m not sure this has an actual warming component? Or maybe it does. I can get pretty heated if I start to suspect there’s a missing piece. Anyway, The Raconteur was my favorite puzzle this year.
- Homeless shelters near you need funds, always. They say it’s going to be a harsh winter. If you can help keep the lights and heat on at a shelter near you, it will save lives.
Well, that’s 13 ideas! I was hoping to get to 100, but it looks like another case of needing a village, and that means you. In the comments below, please add your favorites and your ambitions to the list, and then we can all bookmark the page for that tough time after Valentine’s Day. Or tomorrow.
Image CREDIT: Snow Storm in Vermont, 1800s, Mary Altha Nim, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Richard Seymour Bayham 1934.124. Used with permission.
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