Baby, it’s cold outside. So, we ask, what’s there to love about winter?
For some, including us, winter comes in like an unwelcome guest. It blows its cold air into our homes, on our faces, surrounds our bodies and makes our bones chill and ache. Brrrrr.
And with winter, comes the possibility of snow. Albeit snow may be pretty to look at and ice can make the landscape look like a Currier and Ives print—it can be dangerous, too. We can slip, slide and fall.
Driving is difficult. Walking is harder. And when snow gets dirty from too many footprints and other things, think dogs, yes that, it isn’t so pretty after a while. As Barbara, who broke her arm in two places and fractured her wrist after slipping on the ice, bluntly says, “Snow and ice are fine to appreciate from the inside looking out but beware in venturing outdoors.”
Living in the Northeast, as we do, cold weather is as inevitable as the changing seasons. This winter will be particularly difficult as the pandemic surges and the likelihood that we’ll be stuck indoors quarantining for longer stretches.
Right now, the cold facts are that there will be no place like home this winter for entertainment, learning and to warm up. So, start nesting now as one friend of Margaret’s told her she has been doing since the temperature dipped.
Are we frozen in our stand against winter? Do we find that winter offers little cold comfort? Some, who actually like winter, may call us grinches. We say in our defense that we’re simply two sunny warm-weather gals who can learn to take the heat of a cold punch.
So, in the spirit of trying to be positive about the weather ahead, we decided to focus on winter’s assets. We had to dig hard, but we know whatever any situation occurs, there’s always a silver lining. One obvious plus is that winter, like everything else, comes and goes. Bye, bye, and don’t come back too soon.
Here’s our attempt to eek any warmth out of a chilly condition.
Cute clothing. If you want to go walking in winter’s wonderland, there is lots of adorable and very warm clothing to outfit us from top to bottom. Think turtlenecks (a great look to cover our turkey necks as Nora Ephron advocated to cover our necks and Diane Keaton showed in “Something’s Gotta Give”). We also love merino wool or cashmere sweaters of any style, scarves, socks and gloves or long underwear such as engineered HeatTech fabrics from Uniqlo that cling, keep you warm and absorb sweat. Face it, winter is a time when getting dressed means putting some thought into your outfit and coming up with layers. Think cake. Check the weather and factor in wind chills. And don’t forget your mask. Ironically, that new addition to our wardrobe offers, in addition to protection from germs, some protection from the elements, too.
Hot drinks. What could be more delicious on a freezing cold day than to warm up with a cup of really good hot chocolate (recipe below.) Are you a marshmallow or whipped cream on top kind of person? What about a hot toddy (recipe below), hot apple cider with cinnamon stick or a hot cup of tea and homemade scone waiting in the wings at home? Add some clotted cream, put your cold feet up, use your best British accent and think hey, we’re sort of okay with the cold, ducky.
Soup’s on along with hearty stews, too. The cold temps produce warm, heartier cravings. Dig into your recipe file, go online or open a cookbook and get cooking. This is the perfect time to let your ideas simmer like a good soup. Barbara recently made for the second time a terrific homemade tomato soup with canned tomatoes and tomato juice, basil, onions and parsley, and with less sodium than many canned brands. Take the time to read recipes, improvise if you must, and spruce up your repertoire. Try making a hearty chicken stew, beef Bourgogne or traditional beef stew (The New York Times published one recently with onions and ale that Barbara’s beau made, and they enjoyed for three nights in a row and will make again). With such meals you will have a hot time in the cold town tonight! Moreover, leftovers can be frozen. And there’s always the old standby, chicken soup made with matzoh balls, rice or noodles or all three. It’s good for what ails you and that’s a fact.
Bread again… yes. All that yeast that we learned to work with at the beginning of the pandemic taught us how to be patient, let yeast rise and make sesame seed bagels, challah and baked apple-cider and lemon doughnuts. But it reminded Barbara of those French baguettes she used to make before every Christmas as gifts to friends. So, she pulled out her pans and plans to do so as gifts to friends and family sometime in the new year. They freeze perfectly.
Cold storage and shipping. Capitalize on nature’s freezer to keep food fresh. Cold weather, as we all know, is the best time to ship wine and chocolates or any food items, including the doughnuts, brownies, cookies or rugelach Barbara sends friends for the holidays. The contents won’t spoil or melt. And not having to ship in a pricey cold pack saves money. When Margaret used to make Thanksgiving for a large crowd and run out of refrigerator space, she would keep the food frozen by putting it covered on a table on her screened porch. A balcony or patio will suffice as well.
Excuse to escape to warm weather. When there’s no pandemic, some of us dream about the cold weather coming so we have an excuse to plan a trip South to a warmer climate. With extra time on our hands and stuck at home, planning such a trip can be a healthy activity. For now, we should bag the flying and rely on driving to get to a warm destination. The trick is to make your special somewhere somewhere close enough, so you don’t have to run to a gas station bathroom. For those of us who are stuck inside, create a faux spa. Perhaps, soak in a hot tub with bubbles and light a fragrant candle, or if you’re lucky to live in a home or building with a sauna, go sweat it out in there.
Holiday traditions. December 1 through March 1 is considered to be winter and all the holidays that this time of year brings from Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza to New Year’s Eve, Martin Luther King’s birthday, Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, President’s Day, Purim and St. Patrick’s Day, to name a few. We won’t be celebrating most likely outside our homes, but it is an official day off from an office whether you work in one or WFH (work from home) and an excuse to decorate our homes, cook some great meals and quaff some yummy wines.
Exercise is different. According to Webmd.com, you should acclimate to the colder temps outside, unless you’re lucky enough to have a well-outfitted home gym. Take five to 10 minutes to do some low-level aerobic exercise like jumping jacks or jogging in place. That way, when you step outside, you'll already be warmish. Barbara recently started taking online Zoom classes from her gym, after procrastinating for months and found them quite worthwhile. She tries for one a day early in the morning to get going.
What awaits if you’re dressed properly and in good shape for the outdoors, is a literal cold buffet of exercise options. You can snowshoe and that’s elliptical and aerobic. Downhill skiing is great outdoor exercise but, unless we’re good and have been doing it on a regular basis, it isn’t something to start now and risk breaking a bone. Same applies to ice skating, even if you know how but haven’t skated in years. You might try cross country skiing with poles. Sledding is something we can probably still do in moderation with our grandkids. And there’s always brisk walking or hiking, jogging or running, raking leaves or shoveling snow. And for a more sedentary yet rewarding sport, try ice fishing as one friend of Margaret’s loves to do way up north.
No sting of summer and hot temps. Cold weather is the nemesis of bees, wasps, yellow jackets, mosquitos and other summer insects, as well as bats. They hibernate. We say, sleep well. So, no fear of getting stung or bitten when the weather outside is cold.
No sweat, or at least less. Colder weather can put more bounce in our step rather than dragging us down the street in oppressive heat. In fact, with the wind and cold, many of us get a move on to get moving. But again, dress in layers. Some dress for weather that’s 20 degrees warmer (one of Margaret's mother's recommendations) than the thermometer registers to avoid getting overheated. It’s also fact that we tend to sweat less in cold weather so it’s important to stay hydrated. Your body does lose moisture in winter, and you might not realize it without sweat as a gauge.
We hope this spin on winter appreciation will open your eyes to new ideas of taste, cold weather fashion, warm recipes and beauty as they have ours.
How to make a hot toddy from Taste of Home
Wherever the drink originally came from, the most common ingredients in a basic toddy are:
- 2 Tbsp. whiskey
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. honey
Combine the ingredients in a mug, then fill the mug to the brim with boiling water, stir, and enjoy (more on the variations later). With the combination of lemon and honey, it’s easy to see why toddies are known as a cure for sniffles and scratchy throats. Whiskey also has a warming effect, as well as encouraging drowsiness, so a hot toddy is just the thing when you’re feeling a little under the weather.
The absolute best, richest and creamiest cup of hot chocolate (our recipes combined)
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed non-sweetened cocoa powder (we like Scharffen Berger)
3 cups of half and half (can use whole milk if worried about calories and cholesterol)
6 ounces of semisweet chocolate (again we like either Scharffen Berger or Guittard)
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
Whipped cream or marshmallows for topping
- Bring 3/4ths cup of water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Stir constantly to avoid burning and to eliminate lumps.
- Add milk and simmer.
- Whisk in the semisweet chocolate and sugar. Cook and stir frequently until it’s smooth, creamy and the chocolate is completely melted. Do not allow the concoction to boil. It could burn.
- Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream to which you can add some dusted cocoa powder. Or top with marshmallows instead and, of course, you can always do both.