Scenes from a Blizzard

This past weekend, I was one of the many snowed in during the East Coast blizzard. Boyfriend and I made preparations. We got out to the store a couple days early and bought both refrigerator and pantry staples, as well as a little extra that could be eaten without cooking should the power go out. I set up telework. Friday morning, I made a point of going out for a brisk walk outside and Boyfriend ran in to work briefly before the snow started, and then we both hunkered down.

It really was a glorious snowstorm. Although there was some wind, the promised thunder and lightning did not appear in our little neighborhood. We stayed in and let the snow fall and blow through Friday evening. We watched a lovely movie on Netflix and had some leftovers found in the freezer that would not have survived a power outage.

By Saturday, it was becoming less likely we would lose power. We ventured out to do a little digging, both because we realized we couldn’t open any of the exterior doors on the main level of our house, and also because Boyfriend had invited a friend over. We were able to get out our basement door and trek through the snow to the front. We dug out the front door and a path to the street. Boyfriend’s friend came over and brought shortbread cookies so we had cocoa and cookies while they played computer games and I listened to a podcast.

Sunday, we finished digging out boyfriend’s car, and cleared the extra snow that had accumulated from the front walk. But, for the most part the weekend was spent curled up, drinking tea, and enjoying quiet indoor amusements. I am ready to get out of the house and may try to take a little walk in the snow later today, though work is still closed.

Yuletide Celebrations

Now that winter and Christmas are officially upon us, I thought I’d muse a little bit about my winter holiday. While I was raise Christian and celebrate Christmas with my family, I’ve always maintained a slightly more pagan point of view, and to my mind Yule is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. Now, I know the official solstice passed a few days ago, although it was so gloomy I hardly noted the difference between light and dark during the longest night. But I like to wrap my solstice celebration into my Christmas festivities with my family. We don’t attend church, but we indulge in the trappings of the holiday that largely derive from the pagan festivals anyway.

Oh, my interest in the winter solstice predates any official interest in pagan beliefs. As a runner, I celebrated the return of the sun, when in a few weeks it might be light enough in the morning to safely run in the local, un-lit parks. Nowadays, Yule marks the time when I can see the sun on the horizon earlier in the morning. Over the next couple of months I will go from “getting up at night,” as the old poem goes, to finding more and more dawn light coming in my window when I need to rise.

So as I rise on this holiday to celebrate around a tree and consider symbols of the Christmas holiday, my thoughts hearken back to an older practice, the practice of noting this darkest day and longest night not with fear of the dark, but with the hope of the return of the sun. Blessed Yule and happy holiday season to all!

The Time for Warm Things

Winter is now almost upon us and the weather has started to take note. Unlike some parts of the country, we have not yet seen snow, but the weather has cooled and sharpened. This morning, the wind blew at my scarf and coat while I walked from the train station to work. And I found myself reaching for gloves and a hat to protect my extremities from the cold.

It is the time for warm things. For hot cocoa and shawls, the best friend of those curled up on a sofa for a lazy weekend day. The time for soups and stews and all manner of warm, cooked foods. No more salads, but instead bounteous medleys of roasted, steamed and simmered vegetables.

This weekend, a lovely friend of mine brought a thoughtful and unique gift to the opening performance of a play in which I’m performing. Instead of bringing a bouquet of flowers, she brought bouquet of homemade baguettes! So our dinner was a simple meal of roasted chicken, steamed kale, and fresh, warm baguette with butter.

Sadly, it is also the time of year when I am likely to spend my spare time curled up under a blanket rather than taking excursions through the park near our house. It leads to a somewhat more sedentary lifestyle, particularly with the days as short as they are. But I press on, bundle up, and take bracing walks in the cold. I do enjoy the feeling of cold air on my face, as much as I also enjoy being curled up in the warmth and comfort of home. It is time to haul out my tweeds and woolens, trade gauzy scarves for knit ones. No matter how cold it may be, if my neck, ears, and hands are covered, I’m relatively comfortable.

Boyfriend, it seems, has lost all of his warm hats, so when I am back at home from an excursion, I’ve been spending my time making him a new one, along with some warm gifts for friends. In the summer heat, my crochet is never quite as attractive as when I can cuddle up with a stash of wool in the cold.

Wishing all of my readers a joyous holiday season and lovely winter to come.

Vintage Pastimes on a Snowy Day

Yesterday was not the magical kind of snowstorm. You know, where you go to bed and it’s clear, but you wake up and either the houses have been dusted, or it’s still lightly snowing, and the whole world looks ethereal, like Christmas morning? The world changes overnight and seems almost like magic?

This was not that kind of morning.

We woke up to rain. Both of us found that work had been closed. We listened to the rain as it became louder and realized that the temperature had dropped to the point that it was sleeting. Soon, fat snowflakes started dropping from the sky. And it just kept going. Neither of us wanted to go anywhere. So we holed up on the couch and watched a fair amount of Netflix.

But we also found older fashioned ways to amuse ourselves. I pulled out a shawl I’ve been crocheting for a while now. It’s made steadier progress since I started taking it to rehearsals. The shades-of-grey, hand-painted yarn fit with the day, and the softness and warmth of wool on my fingers was soothing on a bit of a dismal day.

And then, Boyfriend taught me how to play cribbage. A cribbage board was his gift to me for my birthday, and we hadn’t had time to try it out. After playing one open hand to help me get the hang of the rules, we continued playing normally until I roundly beat him. It was fun. We later played another game, where he just barely won. I think we might start playing in the evenings rather than watching TV some nights.

Still the snow came down. We decided to nap in the middle of the day.

Eventually it slowed to the point that Boyfriend could wander out for some provisions at the store that is walking distance from our house. He got some food and brought it back so we could eat well for dinner.

And now, this morning, after digging out my car and driving to work, I can look around and see that the world still does look a bit magical with its fresh dusting of snow.

The Stillness in the Cold

It’s been very cold for a while now, and the lake has frozen. I did a lot of walking on Monday. Everything was dusted from the little snow we had on Sunday and was frozen from the low temperatures. It seemed like the world was laying low and waiting for the next snowstorm, which came Monday afternoon and into the evening.

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Because my car was still covered, I decided to walk in to have lunch with Boyfriend, who had to work while I did not. We met at a little cafe near his work and I got a hot chocolate and a panino. We warmed up and chatted and spent time together, and then I walked home, taking a bit of a circuitous route to enjoy the scenery. There was a beautiful stillness about the lake where it had frozen. As I walked around, I saw the places where ripples had frozen in, perhaps from something landing on the water as it froze. In one place, a patch hadn’t fully frozen yet and a solitary duck swam in the lake-within-a-lake.

From home, I went out to the store, where I gathered provisions for the coming snow and walked back home. The first flurries were starting as I got back home and put away the bounty. I bundled into a blanket and a shawl and had a nice hot cup of tea to warm up.

When I woke up the next morning, the neighborhood was blanketed in that thick cushion of snow that soaks up all the noise in the world. Offices were closed and the only sounds were of our neighbors emerging throughout the day to dig out their cars. It was a day for hot beverages and lots of blankets. And the perfect antidote to a string of busy weekends and weeks.

Seven Lovely Things to Keep Me Warm

It’s been fluctuating outside lately. We had a rash of flurries and ice a few weeks ago, followed by a bit of a warm spell lately. And now it looks like it’s going back to cold. All this cold plays havoc with my internal temperature, so I thought I’d share a list of things I love in the winter.

1. Tea: Obviously, I ought to start with my favorite beverage. Whether it’s an infusion of my Gardener’s Herbal Blend (not technically “tea”) or a lovely cup of oolong, tea is my preferred warmer. I love nothing more than curling up at home with my hands wrapped around a steaming cup of tea. In the winter, I tend to gravitate towards richer teas: Assam black tea, Earl Grey, more-oxidized oolongs. And I can add a dash of milk to my black tea if I want something more substantial. After all, cold weather demands extra calories to keep warm.

2. My Cashmere Shawl: This is actually Boyfriend’s, not mine, but I think perhaps whoever gave it to him thought it was a scarf. It is in fact a lovely, large shawl that I can wrap around myself several times, or stretch out to cover my feet, when I’m curled up on the sofa with my tea (and, most likely a book or television program).

3. My Tweed Coat: Of course I would love nothing more than to curl up and hibernate most days in the winter, but I do have to leave the house occasionally. When I do, I wrap up in my vintage Harris tweed overcoat. Its only shortcoming is that it has only one button to stay closed and that fell off last week (It really was the most poetic ending to a bad day, actually. I almost had to laugh). But I can sew that back on if the temperatures start to dip more decisively below freezing again. My tweed coat is both warm and professional and when I wear it with my riding boots, I almost feel like I’m taking a stroll in the English countryside, perhaps about to shoot something feathered. Like a pheasant or a grouse. But instead, I’m often just hurrying in to work before the cold nips my face too much.

4. My Gloves: These are a new addition. They were a gift, and I have to give kudos to Boyfriend’s mother for finding the perfect pair of gloves for me. They have a vintage look to them (I even used them in the play I just closed) but they actually fit me. And the thumb and index finger have conductive pads so I can use my touch-screen phone while wearing them. I was never a wearer of gloves, likely because they never fit me well, but these are a daily addition to my wardrobe.

5. My Collection of Scarves: I have scarves for every occasion. In fact, when I was cast as an Isadora-Duncan-esque dancer last year, it was probably at least in part because of the scarf I wore to auditions. The producer said, before I’d even been cast, that the scarf was likely to become a character of its own. But in the winter, I lean towards cozy woolen scarves, in plaids with fringes, wrapped up around my neck to keep me warm.

6. Cozy Layers: I’m going to call this one thing because it’s often worn all together (which is different than “in the altogether,” which would be decidedly chillier). In the winter, I often emerge from my cocoon of shawls and blankets and tea cups to take an invigorating walk in the cold. It’s good for the circulation and I think the complexion (although I’ve never suffered for long from dry skin). But when I go for a walk, I don’t want to be encumbered by too much bulk, so I generally try to dress in warm layers and skip the full overcoat. I generally reach for my cozy oatmeal tweed cabled sweater, jeans with boots, a bright orange vest, and hat, glove, and scarf.

7. Cozy Crafting: Crochet is really made for cold weather. In the summer, I stick to lighter crafts, but when the temperature drops, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a shawl or blanket in progress and let the finished bulk cover my feet while I work.

I hope you enjoyed my list of cold weather essentials. Amongst what sorts of cozy things do you curl up when the temperature drops?

A Walk in the Snow

A couple days ago, we had the first snow of the season. It was magical. The forecast had been for just a dusting, so waking up to a couple of inches on the trees and rooftops was a surprise. To my dismay, Boyfriend and I both to go to work, though I was working at his location, so we could carpool. And because my responsibilities were a bit light, I was able to sneak away for a half an hour to go for a walk in the snow around lunch time.

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Though the roads and most sidewalks had been cleared by then, there were still some snowy paths. It was a quiet day, still close enough to the holidays, that snow made the whole world feel private and special. It was cold, so no one really wanted to be outside, except yours very eccentrically truly.

I had the idea to walk up to a local chapel that has a meditation garden with a labyrinth, but while the walkways were shoveled, the labyrinth was not. I could see a vague outline in the snow, and considered making my way around in the snow, but decided not to ruin the pristine beauty of the snowy field with my boot prints.

My new boots got a workout. They needed a bit of breaking in, and I had some rubbing on my heel by the time I got back. The cold nipped, but I had bundled up tightly, and by the time I got back, I was still up for more walking to get lunch with boyfriend at a local cafe.

Winter Mornings

“In winter I get up at night / And dress by yellow candle-light.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

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Most mornings in the winter we wake up before dawn and I find myself making my way downstairs as the sun is just coming over the horizon. In the summer, it would be light for hours, but the dim light of winter lends a solitude to the early hours. It’s a bit dark and cool. I have to shower this morning, because I’m leaving early and have to be dressed and made up. I shower and dry off, and then dress casually to have my breakfast. I set the kettle to boil and get the tea out. Earl Grey this morning. Two slices of thick handmade bread go in the toaster and butter and a plate are at the ready. A glass of milk finishes off a nice light breakfast.

Sitting in the early morning is the best time to sit and think. It’s quiet. Even when Boyfriend is up, he’s sipping his coffee contemplatively. We have our time together without speaking too much because we don’t want to wake anyone else, but we just enjoy the silent company. And soon the world wakes up and things warm and brighten and become louder and the day starts in earnest. But I enjoy my early morning sanctuary while I can.

A Full Breakfast

Weekends are for errands and long walks and lounging with a pot of tea. And for big breakfasts. This weekend, I decided I’d make myself and Boyfriend a full English breakfast.

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An English breakfast consists of bacon and eggs and toast, but also grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, and a pool of baked beans. And it is washed down with copious amounts of strong black tea. I had mine with a little milk. Often, it includes sausage links as well as bacon, but I decided to limit myself to one breakfast meat.

Our Saturday morning was wonderful. I dragged him out of bed a little after 8 a.m., to bundle up for a walk around the lake near our house. I wrapped up in fleece leggings, a long skirt, a thick cabled wool sweater, my vest, a scarf, my boots, and my crocheted ear warmer and found myself toasty warm, other than a bit of nip at my nose. It was chilly and clear and very quiet. There were a few runners out. Even some of the geese were still sleeping. Boyfriend was not too pleased to be up and about at that hour, but it was a lovely start to the day. And I knew he would appreciate what we had in store for us when we got home.

When I got home, I threw the rashers of bacon in the oven to bake. I got a pack of nice thick-cut bacon from a local farmer. Eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, butter, and milk were all also from nearby farmers, and I had a loaf of homemade bread in the freezer. I tipped the tin of beans into a small saucepan and put it on a low flame to warm up while the bacon cooked, and washed up the veggies. When the bacon started getting sizzly, I started frying up the mushrooms and then tomatoes, and turned the beans up a touch so they started to bubble. I toasted the bread and spread it with plenty of butter. And lastly, the eggs went in the pan to cook gently in some butter.

While all this went on, I boiled the electric kettle and made a pot of Assam tea and laid out my tea tray. Everything came together beautifully, and by shortly after 10, we had our plates. I poured some tiny glasses of orange juice because Boyfriend likes it, and I thought a small glass could do me some good in the dead of winter. We devoured our breakfasts, some of us faster than others, and I sat and sipped tea and finished The Secret Adversary, which I’d started the day before. By the time it hit noon, I felt invigorated with the walk and sustained with food and tea and was ready to run some holiday errands!

A Cozy Start to the Weekend

Yesterday, I came home from work chilled. It was cold and blustery, and I had chosen too light a jacket for the day. I needed to snuggle up, so I made myself a cup of tea,  put on some fleece leggings and a wool sweater, and snuggled up with my favorite cashmere shawl and an Agatha Christie book on my Kindle.

My cashmere shawl is actually my boyfriend’s shawl. He got it for Christmas from a family friend who didn’t quite understand why it was too big to be a scarf. It’s very soft cashmere in a grey-black-white plaid pattern and it’s the coziest thing.

After maybe an hour snuggled up, Boyfriend got home and we considered dinner. I had thawed two fish fillets, which I wrapped up with lemon and olive oil and salt and pepper into little packets. These nestled in the oven along with some cubed butternut squash and potatoes tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The veggies roasted and the fish steamed. When it was all done, I steamed some kale quickly and dished the whole thing up. It was both light and hearty at the same time. I find potatoes have a kind of comforting solidness to them that makes any meal more warming.

After dinner, we continued to relax, he with a scotch and myself with a glass of port. It was just the perfect beginning to the weekend.