Posts Tagged ‘seasons’

budding trees gutman library harvard square

It’s not quite here yet. But it’s coming.

I’m seeing harbingers of the new season everywhere, including the following:

  • I spotted a plump robin in Harvard Yard the other day.
  • Sometimes it’s cold enough for my down coat in the mornings, but too warm for it by lunchtime. (Not that I’m complaining!)
  • Related: I can walk outside hatless without feeling like my ears are going to freeze off.
  • Some of the snow has melted, revealing bare earth – not beautiful, but a hopeful sign.
  • There are buds on some of the trees.
  • Since the clocks have sprung forward, sunset comes later.
  • I can wear tights that are not fleece-lined.
  • And sometimes, shoes that are not boots.
  • My new sunglasses are coming in handy.
  • On a recent Saturday, the air was so warm that I opened a few windows.
  • I’m getting the urge to reread Jane of Lantern Hill.
  • I’m hankering for asparagus, rhubarb and anything flavored with lemon.
  • Spring plans – like a trip to Texas, my husband’s birthday, and Commencement season at work – don’t seem quite so far away.

How is spring (or the anticipation of it) showing up where you are?

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seasonal amnesia

“I swear everyone forgets what it’s like,” I said to my sister on the phone last week. “I love living in New England about two-thirds of the year.” And I do.


snow trees first parish church cambridge
But then we get to this part, and I realize: we always forget how it feels to walk through this stretch, these gray, frozen, mind-numbingly cold days of the second half (or so) of winter.

I don’t mind a chill in the air in late fall, when burnished leaves begin to turn brown and the nights grow crisp and starry. I like pulling out my sweaters and boots, brewing an extra cup of tea in the evening, baking a loaf of pumpkin bread and buying fresh cranberries at the grocery store. I love Thanksgiving, and I adore December, with its atmosphere of twinkly magic and the manifold joys of Christmas.

We had a foot of snow in December this year, which felt a bit ominous. But at the beginning of winter, no one really minds. We pulled out the snow shovels, dug out our cars and scraped off our windshields, and then we flew to Texas to spend the holidays with our loved ones. We knew the winter would really start after we came back. It started with a blizzard, and has lingered with a vengeance.

winter trees boston pink sunset

I forget, every year, what it’s like to feel stuck in this stage of winter, when I’m sick to death of winter clothes, dry skin, and biting, punishing winds. My vision narrows until all I can think about is getting home after work and curling up on the couch with tea and a good story. Dust collects in the corners of my house; why should I clean those hard-to-reach spots if it’s too dark to tell the difference? Running out of milk or bread is enough to make me change the plan for dinner completely – anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store after dark. The errands pile up until the weekend, when I can at least run them in the daylight. Everything feels gray and white and worn out, and it seems as if spring will never come.

I know I’ll look back on these words in May or July or September and I won’t quite remember how it feels. I’ll remember that it was cold, and that I wore my red down coat, black snow boots and fleece-lined tights for days on end. I’ll remember brewing endless cups of tea and eating bowl after bowl of soup. I’ll remember spending many evenings holed up at home, with a book and a blanket for company.

But I won’t quite remember this, the flat heaviness that has settled into my soul. It will lift and lighten when spring comes, and by summer it will be entirely gone.

This is both a relief and a blessing. If I remembered this feeling clearly all year round, I don’t know if I could face another Northeastern winter. I wonder sometimes when I will reach the end of my endurance, when the thought of another long stretch of cold, dark, snowy days will be enough to make me pull up stakes and move back south. I have a feeling I’ll get there eventually, no matter how much I love the mild New England summers and the glorious autumns.

For now, my seasonal amnesia lets me savor the summer and fall, revel in the spring when it finally arrives, and prepare for another winter without (entirely) giving up. But I’d still welcome spring any day now.

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This is, as I’ve said before, my fourth winter in Boston. And while I’ve learned a few tricks for bundling up against the cold and navigating the snow-lined, slushy streets, I am continually astounded by the sheer volume of what I didn’t know about these winters before living through them.

Hence, a list.

snow harvard cambridge ma winter

1. Winter has a particular scent – a crisp, cold, thin one. On the first few truly frigid mornings, you can smell it in the air.
2. The days grow abruptly shorter after Daylight Savings Time ends, and this is almost more difficult than the cold.
3. Road salt is hell on boots, shoes, and dogs’ feet. (Hence the silly-looking dog booties I see around town sometimes.)
4. Clorox cleaning wipes are pretty good for cleaning road salt off said boots.
5. Sometimes the snow is thick enough that people actually have to shovel their porch roofs, lest they collapse under the weight of it.
6. Black ice is a real thing, and it is slippery, treacherous and nearly invisible.
7. The temperatures can drop low enough that it’s too cold to snow – and when the mercury rises and the snow starts falling, it actually feels warmer.
8. Down is appreciably warmer than wool.
9. Related: you need at least one down coat and one wool coat, for different types of cold days.
10. Blasting heaters indoors and frigid air outdoors make layers a necessity, and dry skin, flyaway hair, and dripping noses an inevitability. (I grew up in a warm, dry climate, where winter is a totally different and much gentler animal.)
11. Related: damp cold can be harder to take than crisp, dry cold. The former gets into your bones.
12. Piles of gray slush are infinitely harder and more depressing to walk through than fresh snow.
13. Related: puddles of melting snow/sludge can be deceptively deep.
14. Seeing light in the sky at 5:00 p.m. feels like a real victory.
15. Related: December, with its twinkly good cheer, is only the beginning of winter. The longest, hardest slog comes afterward.
16. It is possible to hate the cold and have cabin fever at the same time.
17. Your attitude toward snow changes dramatically after you watch it bury your car and street several times.
18. Related: sometimes it takes days for the snowplow to reach your street.
19. Also related: there are some streets and sidewalks that never do get plowed.
20. Despite the above, city workers and the maintenance folks at my workplace are my new heroes.
21. As long as the power’s on, you usually have to go to work no matter how bad it gets.
22. I wouldn’t have believed it, but it is possible to get tired of soup.
23. Spring clothes are infinitely tempting and also crazy-making, because you know you won’t be able to wear them till at least (at least!) April or May.
24. Taking a vacation to a warm place really does help.
25. As do Vitamin D pills and light boxes. But they are not cure-alls.
26. The sight of bare, damp earth can feel positively springy, even if it is mid-February.
27. Ditto crocuses, even if they’re peeking through snow.
28. The subway often runs more smoothly on a snow day than on a normal one.
29. If the winter is long enough and cold enough, you may start to go a little nuts and make lists like this one.

snow hood jacket

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snow winter harvard yard

We’ve officially hit it: the stage of winter where we’ve had several big blizzards – including the one on Saturday night that dumped six inches on top of the snow we already had – but where spring is still a far-off possibility. Also known as the time when I start champing at the bit, longing for winter to be over already. (Drat that groundhog. Also, who knew he had a website?)

snow trees first parish church cambridge

I’m sick of all my sweaters and scarves, sick of wearing fleece-lined tights every day (though deeply thankful that I own them), sick of commuting home in the dark and trudging through gray slush and not being able to open the windows. I get irrationally annoyed at the shopkeepers who fail to salt or shovel the stretches of sidewalk in front of their stores, leaving piles of impacted snow that melt and refreeze into slippery black ice.

I’m sick of the biting air on my face and the sidewalks narrowed to single-track paths by the heaps of snow on either side. I’m dreading the next heating-oil bill (always bigger than I hope it will be) and wondering whether my feet will ever be warm again. I feel like I have permanent hat hair, permanent dry skin from the indoor air, a permanently drippy nose.

And we have – irrespective of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions – at least six more weeks of winter.

In other words, we have arrived at the stage where the only way out is through, where I have to keep following my winter rituals because it’s all I can do. I have to keep brewing my morning tea and flipping on my happy lamp every day and turning on the electric blanket before bed. I have to dress in layers every morning and check the heating-oil gauge and pull on my snow boots before going outside. I have to keep making soup and enchiladas and more tea, because they will nourish and sustain me through the rest of the winter.

Fortunately, the Olympics are on, and the days are getting longer – it’s still afternoon, not quite twilight, when I leave the office now. We are making plans for spring travel and I’m working through a stack of library books and several books I already own (in keeping with Leigh’s February Reading Challenge). I am drinking a lot of water and going to yoga twice a week. (Full disclosure: I am also eating a lot of chocolate and drinking gallons of tea.) And I’m hanging on.

Any winter survival tips? I’d love ‘em if you’ve got ‘em. And please tell me – when will it be spring?

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kind of blue

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. It is January, after all, and a particularly frigid one at that.

I’m wearing all my essential winter gear and employing every winter survival trick I know, but I’m still caught in the post-holiday, midwinter-blues letdown. (I’ve often thought that the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which I love, is more appropriate for January and February than for twinkly December.)

Then I noticed that a few of my recent photos have a blue theme. Not bleak, sad blue, but quiet, meditative, wintry blue. I thought I’d share them here, for your enjoyment:

snow hgse light windows

keep calm drink tea blue mug

figure skating championships gracie gold

snow trees blue lights

spires harvard blue sky

tealuxe sign winter

This kind of winter blue isn’t so bad. (But I’m still – already – counting the days till spring.)

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winter gear essentials

This winter. I mean, seriously.

A blizzard that prompted a snow day, wild swings from mid-50s to single digits in the same week, piles of powdery icing-sugar snow that melted into gray sludge, only to refreeze into hard, icy lumps. And it’s not even the end of January.

This is my fourth Northeastern winter, and the third one with significant amounts of snow. By now, we know the drill: stock up on tea, warm socks and heating oil; buy ingredients for soup; pull out the down coats and the heavy-duty boots; and hunker down. Winter comes to Boston to stay a while.

I tell people, over and over, that the right gear makes a huge difference in how I survive the winter. Here’s the stuff that is saving my life this winter:

  • Keen snow boots, bought at the end of last season when my old ones (inherited from my sister) gave up the ghost. Lightweight, warm and waterproof.
  • My down coat – knee-length, hooded and toasty. (I got mine way on sale at an Eddie Bauer outlet several years ago.)
  • Fleece-lined tights, which Santa put in my stocking.
  • A bright cocoon coat. (I own the green one above, though they’re not selling that color this season.)
  • My enormous collection of tea. (The blend above is from Harney & Sons.)
  • And the mug my sister bought me to drink it in.
  • Tiny, tart-sweet, zesty clementines.
  • Lip balm, cuticle salve and hand lotion. (I love Burt’s Bees so much.)
  • My new slippers (a Christmas gift from J).
  • The electric blanket J bought two Christmases ago.
  • All the knitted cowls (I have five) and cozy scarves.

By the way, that image up there is my very first Photoshop collage. Color me proud!

What are your winter gear essentials? I’m always looking for more secret weapons against the cold.

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Winter Manifesto

snow harvard cambridge ma winter

I have a complicated relationship with winter. I love hot drinks, cozy scarves and curling up on the couch with a good book (preferably in the presence of twinkle lights, or a Christmas tree). But I struggle with the cold, short, dark days in this climate so far north from where I was raised. (And the blizzards, including the one we had last week.) I struggle to have a mind for winter.

Every year, I have to gird my loins to survive, much less enjoy, this difficult season. Hence, a manifesto – a few things to do, try and delight in while I’m waiting for spring.

  • Go to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships – my husband surprised me with tickets to the ladies’ free skate.
  • Get a massage, and go to the dentist. Self-care is important.
  • Continue with the yoga routine I’ve established (two or three times a week).
  • Go see the Celtics play at TD Garden, courtesy of a friend.
  • Watch the Olympics – I love the figure skating and the skiing.
  • Knit something cozy.
  • Tackle another hefty classic. (Recommendations, anyone? Last year’s was Les Mis.)
  • Indulge in a bit of color therapy.
  • Plan some springtime travel.

snow hood jacket

How do you survive – and/or enjoy – winter?

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It’s cold around here (despite the freak 60-degree day we had – with heavy rain – the week of Thanksgiving). It will be cold for months to come. The last vestiges of my summer/early fall wardrobe have been relegated to the back of my closet or the dresser in the spare room. And my winter style uniform has reappeared.

katie green coat harvard yard

I work in a business-casual office environment (higher education). Most of my colleagues don’t wear suits (unless they have important meetings), but we also don’t wear jeans, even on Fridays. (This is one reason I sometimes wear jeans to church on Sundays: because I can’t wear them during the week.)

I also commute on public transportation, often through rain, snow and slush in the wintertime. I need polished, professional (but not overly buttoned-up) clothes, and shoes that will support my feet (and keep them dry). Over the past few years, I’ve gradually pulled together a winter style uniform, some variation of which I wear almost every day.

The formula looks like this: sweater/tee + scarf + pencil skirt + tights/leggings + boots.

If it’s raining or snowing, I wear my red wellies or snow boots and carry a pair of flats in my bag. I now own five winter coats: three wool, two down. (Plus a lighter trench coat for warmer, rainy days.) I have a growing collection of handknit hats. I own a few dresses I love, and sometimes I swap the sweater/skirt combo for a dress/cardigan or tunic/tee pair.

Here’s what I know: I feel more like myself in soft separates rather than crisp button-downs. I’m not big on busy patterns, but I do love stripes. I own a dozen or so scarves, which I swap out according to the colors of my outfit (and the weather: freezing temps call for warm handknit cowls). I’ve begun experimenting with bolder tights – red, purple or a brand-new teal pair. My black riding boots get a real workout in the winter, though I also own a brown pair. And I rotate my coats – especially my new jade-green one, above – according to weather and mood.

Most of the time, I love this uniform. It’s smart, proper, warm and stylish, and it means I don’t have to deal with wet, dragging pant hems (my least favorite thing), damp socks, or ironing in the morning (or the night before). It also saves me from having to make too many decisions while I’m rushing around in the morning (unless the tee or skirt I wanted to wear is in the laundry). I function much better if I can put off decision-making until after my first cup of tea.

But sometimes, I get a little bored with my uniform – especially because I know I’ll be wearing it for several (cold) months to come. So, stylish readers, any inexpensive tips for jazzing up my standard style formula? I’m all ears.

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Oct 2013 001

I posted my fall manifesto in early September, and thought I’d pop in to give an update. It is a beautiful, if slightly hectic and suddenly chilly, autumn around here.

Here’s my list and the updates to it:

  • Go apple picking (by now a beloved tradition). We went back to Honey Pot Hill for the fourth year. Sunshine, bags of apples, and delicious cider donuts.
  • Reread Gaudy Night for my book club. We had a brilliant discussion, fueled by wine and yummy snacks.
  • Voyager a Montreal to celebrate my 30th birthday. Such a fun trip with my love.
  • Listen to this song from The Fantasticks. (Yes.)
  • Visit Nantucket. (Don’t know if we’ll make it before winter sets in.)
  • Spend a weekend in New York. We had to cancel. Sad day.
  • Reread the Harry Potter series again. Soon! November’s blustery winds are the perfect Hogwarts weather.
  • Go to a Harvard football game. We saw them beat Brown – so much fun.
  • Head down to Texas to see my family and cuddle my nephew. (Spent three days last week doing just that.)
  • Attend author events at the Booksmith and/or the Harvard Book Store. (I went to Dani Shapiro’s lovely reading.)
  • Reread Anne of the Island and/or Anne of Windy Poplars. I loved revisiting Redmond with Anne, and plan to visit Summerside soon.
  • Start rehearsals with the choir I just joined. In full swing (or song).
  • Celebrate my fourth (!) Turkeypalooza with friends. (We are making plans.)
  • Drink chai, make pumpkin bread, simmer soup on the stove, and revel in all the fall flavors. (Absolutely. But I need to make some pumpkin bread, stat.)

tealuxe teapots tea

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It’s still Autumn Colors Week over at Poppytalk, and today’s color is orange. It’s showing up all over Harvard Square this fall, starting in Harvard Yard:

Oct 2013 001

These chairs look so companionable.

chairs harvard yard cambridge ma autumn leaves

There’s also orange at the farmers’ market:

pumpkins farmers market

And in Radcliffe Yard:

tree longfellow hall harvard autumn cambridge ma

leaves autumn trees radcliffe yard harvard

At the coffee shop:

tealuxe emily deep valley maud hart lovelace

And on Cambridge Common:

trees cambridge common autumn cambridge ma

Where is orange showing up for you this fall?

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