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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

We are (only?) two weeks into 2021, and it has been a ride. I’ve been doing some serious escapist reading, and it – along with paperwhites, good music and hugs from my guy – is keeping me (mostly) sane. Here’s my first reading roundup of the year:

Once a Midwife, Patricia Harman
I loved this warm, honest novel set in West Virginia during World War II. Midwife Patience Hester is mothering four children, helping her veterinarian husband with the farm work, and delivering babies. Then the U.S. enters World War II and her husband is persecuted for his stance as a conscientious objector. Lovely and thought-provoking. Part of a series (see below).

Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines, Jennifer J. Chow
Mimi Lee, pet groomer and occasional sleuth, goes to meet her sister Alice for a girls’ night out and finds one of Alice’s colleagues dead in her car. Determined to clear Alice’s name (since she’s a prime suspect), Mimi noses around (with the help of her talking cat, Marshmallow). Super fluffy and really fun.

Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World, Isabel Gillies
I picked this one up on remainder at the Booksmith – seems apt for the winter we’re in. Gillies explores the concept of coziness in both familiar ways (cups of tea, blankets, soup) and unexpected ones (an ode to blue mailboxes, a section on “When it Feels Hard”). A bit uneven: some lovely moments and also times when she’s a bit out of touch. (I felt the same about Gillies’ YA novel, Starry Night.)

The Enigma Game, Elizabeth Wein
Orphaned in the London Blitz, 15-year-old Louisa Adair (who is half Jamaican) accepts a position as companion to an old woman in a Scottish village. The catch? The old woman, Jane, is German–but she doesn’t want anyone to know (whereas Louisa can’t hide her heritage). Their adventures with a flying squadron, a German pilot, an Enigma coding machine and a volunteer driver with secrets of her own were just fantastic. I love Wein’s thrilling wartime YA novels and this one is so good.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
All alone for Christmas, 16-year-old Lily leaves a red Moleskine journal full of “dares” on a favorite shelf at the Strand. Dash, also alone for Christmas, picks it up and the two begin a sweet, funny whirlwind romance via correspondence. An entertaining, festive, witty YA novel with some great side characters; I especially enjoyed Lily’s Great-aunt Ida.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal, Horatio Clare
Winter is hard (in case you hadn’t heard) and Clare, a British writer, struggles with it particularly. This is a gorgeous, honest, lyrical book about winter in Yorkshire and seasonal depression and noticing the beauty. I loved it so much. Recommended by my friend Roxani.

The Midwife of Hope River, Patricia Harman
I went back to the beginning of Patience’s story (see above): this traces her adventures delivering babies as a single woman during the Depression. The reader gets to know Patience via her present work as a midwife and flashbacks to her past as a union organizer. A little clunky at times, but comforting and absorbing.

Links are to Brookline Booksmith, a perennial local fave. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

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Hello, friends. Welcome (?) to 2021.

It’s hard to believe we are only 10 days in. Last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has left me reeling. My partner and I both have family members who have the virus, and the general stress and isolation of pandemic life has not let up. If anything, the cumulative weight of the last few months makes it feel even heavier. So I’ve been quiet here, because really, what is there to say?

I still don’t know, but a comment from a reader (hi Mary!) helped remind me that coming back to this space is often a healthy outlet and a source of joy. So I’m starting the year on the blog with a list of the tiny good things that are getting me through, at the moment. Here they are:

  • My paperwhites (above) are finally blooming. Every year this is a miracle, and I have rarely watched so anxiously for those buds and creamy flowers as I did this year.
  • My Christmas tree is still up (oh yes it is), and twinkle lights feel hopeful in this dark season.
  • The fish I am feeding for a friend are all (knock wood) still alive.
  • I started a new journal last week, and this one is Harry Potter-themed.
  • Dinner on Friday was a new recipe from Real Simple, and it was delicious.
  • My new coat does have functional pockets (I had to open them with a seam ripper, but they are there).
  • The fizzy shower bar a friend sent for Christmas is such a treat. (I have a tiny shower and no bathtub, so it’s perfect.)
  • I have been reading some really good books: Elizabeth Wein’s gripping YA novel The Enigma Game and Horatio Clare’s gorgeous, honest memoir The Light in the Dark.
  • My writing class has started back up, and seeing everyone’s faces and sharing our writing is so nourishing and fun.
  • The Wailin’ Jennys’ cover of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” – with their ethereal, bell-like harmonies – is perfection.
  • My local tea store, Mem Tea, is still faithfully shipping out online orders, and I just stocked up on my winter staples: English Breakfast and Earl Grey.

What are the small things getting you through, these days?

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We had 13 (!) inches of snow here in Boston last Thursday, and I left the house exactly twice: once to shovel out my own front steps and walk, and once to shovel a friend’s front steps (I’m checking their mail and feeding their fish while they’re away). It was blowing and swirling – decidedly not a day for running. But since the storm passed, I’ve been loving the season’s first taste of winter running.

I became a runner right around this time three years ago, when it got too cold to walk for long on my beloved river trail. I’ve slowly been learning about, and buying, the right gear: fleece-lined running tights, a few warm headbands, snow spikes for when the trails are really dicey. Sometimes I have to talk myself into bundling up and heading out into the cold. But often, once I’m out there, I’m surprised again by how much I love it.

Running in the cold is an invigorating challenge: I have to keep moving to keep my body warm, and the resulting heat and motion feels satisfying. The road feels different under my feet when I’m dealing with snow and ice, though I love how the snow spikes take away some of my worries about slipping on ice or slush. I love the pure, sharp contrast of white and blue and green, and the cold air in my nose and lungs. And these days, I’m listening to Christmas music while I run (or dash?) through the snow.

There will be plenty of gray days this winter, and we’re expecting rain later this week. But for now, I’m grateful for these crisp, clear, snowy winter days, and the chance to get out and run.

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ornaments light book

Hello, friends. Here we are in December, and like every other month in this strange year, it’s going to be a weird one. For the first time in my life, I will not be in Texas for Christmas; I will (still) be hunkering down here in Boston, drinking tea and doing freelance work and spending time with the few folks I am safely seeing. It’s the right decision, but it feels strange and sad, as you might expect.

I struggle with the short, dark days every year (hence my light box, Vitamin D pills and plenty of twinkle lights). This year, I am making an extra effort to look for the light, so every weekday this month, I’ll be sharing one of the ways in which I’m finding joy and comfort these days. The first one is hinted at above: the traditions of the season are bringing light, even though they look different this year.

Every year since I was a high school senior, I have pulled out my copy of Watch for the Light to revisit the poetry, theology and wisdom in its pages. I found it on an endcap at the National Cathedral gift shop, and it sparked a love of Advent that runs deep, nearly 20 years later. I have complicated feelings about church these days (and I’m not going to any in-person services this year), but I love the way Advent explores darkness and hope, longing and anticipation. Feels especially apt this year.

I’m observing a few more of my own traditions: listening to Christmas music, decking my halls, shopping for gifts (which will mostly be shipped, this year), and remembering Christmases past. Some of those associations are bittersweet: they involve faraway friends, my former church, family I won’t see this year, the life my ex-husband and I used to have. But they are there, inescapable, so I might as well acknowledge their presence. And there’s a lot of sweetness to remember, too.

I hope you’ll join me this month in looking for the light, and sharing yours, if you’re so inclined. xo

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Hello, friends. Here we are at the edge of a new month. After a mostly dry, sunny October, our November weather has blown in with a vengeance. We definitely needed every drop of rain, but I’m adjusting to sudden cooler, wetter days and nights – and serious darkness, at both ends of the day.

Parts of this shift happen every year: the end of Daylight Savings Time, the slow droop of the sun’s angle in the sky. The dark starts to come down early in mid-autumn, and I know: winter is coming. This year, I’m spending most of my time alone in my apartment, and it’s more important than ever to do the things I know will help me get through.

I start reaching for the Vitamin D pills in mid-October, popping one every morning to help mitigate the effects of so much less sunlight. And, later in the month, I start flipping on the light box in the mornings.

I’d lived here about two years when my friend Ryan finally convinced me to buy a light box: he swears by his, and I always tell people it helps take the edge off Boston’s long, dark winters. My light box is not beautiful – it’s a big square gray plastic thing, which gives off piercingly white-blue light. (My ex-husband used to refer to it as “the glory of the Lord,” because it was so blinding when he’d walk into the bathroom in the mornings.) I flip it on for 15 or 30 minutes while I’m showering, drying my hair, etc., and count on it to help boost my mood a bit, especially on grey days.

Real talk: sometimes I’m not sure either the pills or the box have any impact at all. Other days I’m convinced it’s a placebo effect. But even if that’s the case, I’ll take it: in both cases, it can’t hurt. And I feel like I’m at least doing something to beat back the dark.

What coping strategies do you have to mitigate the dark – or help you embrace the cold/cozy season? I’d love to hear, if you’d like to share.

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This is the winter of lunchtime runs, hauling my running gear and bright blue sneakers to work in my gray backpack so I can get out on the Esplanade twice a week or so, catching the sunshine and whatever warmth it provides.

This is the winter of all the puzzles, spread out on my friend Chrissy’s coffee table: NYC signs and Italian hillsides and bucolic New England landscapes, worked a piece at a time while we talk about our lives.

This is the winter of Cooking Solo, Klancy Miller’s brilliant cookbook about doing just that. I’ve been eating her lentil soup (stuffed with other veggies), her lemony pancakes, her roasted veggies with tahini dressing, for weeks.

This is the winter of almost no snow and only a few extended cold snaps. I’m missing the brilliance of sunlight on reflected snowbanks (and worried about what it means for the climate) even as I give thanks for the lack of grey slush.

This is the winter of settling into Eastie, continuing to make a home in this neighborhood that became mine last year. I’m growing paperwhites in my kitchen window, meeting a few more neighbors, going to yoga and strength training classes at The Point on the regular.

This is the winter of a(nother) Harry Potter reread, undertaken in tandem with someone I love, walking alongside Harry and his companions as they learn and grow and face unbelievable evil with courage and love.

This is the winter of sharp loneliness and sudden tears, still mourning the death of my marriage and adjusting (in all ways) to a new landscape without it.

This is the winter of avocado toast, handfuls of clementines, chunks of Trader Joe’s crumbly English cheddar, Molly’s scones and Jessica Fechtor’s oatmeal cookies, soup simmered in my red stockpot, endless cups of Earl Grey.

This is the winter of runs along the Harborwalk, vivid sunset light reflected in the water, marking the tides and the miles with my feet and the pounding of my heart.

This is the winter of Tuesday indoor picnics in the Pru, hearty soups decanted into red-lidded Tupperware and heated in the office microwave, cloth napkins and on-the-go utensils and laughter before we hug and go our separate ways.

This is the winter of starting to heal, doing my best to welcome unexpected joys where they appear.

What does life look like for you this winter?

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We haven’t seen the sun since Tuesday, friends, and frankly, I’m getting a little desperate. Boston hasn’t had much snow yet this winter (though my West Texas hometown got seven inches the other day), but it has been chill, grey and rainy for days on end. I am pulling out all my lifesavers from Monday’s post, but here are a few that have particularly come through in the clutch this week:

  • Eating all the clementines. They remind me that brightness will return, and they taste so good.
  • Making travel plans to see family and friends (in reliably sunny locales!) this spring.
  • Dinner with a girlfriend the other night – the curry was delicious, but two hours of good talk was even better for my soul.
  • My happy lamp – even if it’s a placebo effect, I will take the blast of bright light in the mornings when it’s so misty out that I can’t see across Boston Harbor.

  • Reading fun kid lit. Currently loving To Night Owl from Dogfish, recommended by Anne.
  • Daffodils from Trader Joe’s, which were on sale for $1.50 this week.
  • Reading a gardening book – in this case, Six Square Metres by Margaret Simons.
  • Writing snail mail love notes – I’m trying to write one every day in February.

How do you get through the truly dreary days?

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It’s become a midwinter tradition: every February, dozens of us link up with Anne Bogel to answer a brilliant question (from Barbara Brown Taylor): “What is saving your life now?” I make these lists periodically throughout the year (the act of making them can itself be lifesaving), but I always need the reminder in midwinter. So here, as we head into February, is what’s saving my life now:

  • The witch hazel blooming in the Prudential Center courtyard: a bright, hopeful neon yellow.
  • Related: Tuesday indoor picnics in the Pru with someone I love.
  • I say this every winter: all. The. Clementines.
  • Maggie Smith’s poetry, especially “Bride,” which appeared in the New Yorker recently and is now taped to my bathroom mirror.
  • My winter uniform: fleece-lined tights + black Clarks ankle boots + dress (denim, black or striped) + black quilted vest + scarf.
  • That stunning red amaryllis in my kitchen, above.
  • My umpteenth reread of the Harry Potter series. (Starting Deathly Hallows now.)
  • Yoga at The Point every week, the occasional boot camp class there, and being recognized when I walk in the door.
  • Shafts of full-on sunlight in the conference room at work, on the sidewalk and really wherever I can get them.
  • The wisdom in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B.
  • Making soup in batches for work lunches throughout the week.
  • Shalane Flanagan’s superhero muffins.
  • Slathering on the hand lotion and moisturizer (hello, dry winter skin).
  • Acing a freelance writing assignment last week.
  • Pulling out a beloved banana bread recipe.
  • Sunrise over the harbor.
  • Washing a sinkful of dirty dishes: reliably satisfying.
  • Making a few fun plans with friends.
  • Finding welcome, and being welcomed – both are such a gift.

What’s saving your life these days? I’d love to hear, if you’d like to share.

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…is something I am saying a lot these days.

One reason for that: it’s winter. Never mind the mostly-mild weather and wild temperature swings; this time of year is always tough for me. The lack of sunlight can leave me feeling dull and flat, and I’m always exhausted (physically and emotionally) after the holidays. But I am trying (as Maggie Smith keeps reminding us) to keep moving, whether literally or otherwise.

Here are a few things that are helping me, as we continue to move through January:

My light therapy lamp. Real talk: some days I don’t know if it makes any difference. But I flip it on every morning anyway, and most days I think it does take the edge off these long, dark evenings.

Putting the bread in the freezer. This is not like Joey having to put Little Women in the freezer on that episode of Friends (by the way, I saw the new movie twice and adored it). I live alone, so freezing a loaf of bread is one way to ensure it doesn’t all mold before I can toast it. (These days I’m loving Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough.)

Taking a walk. Which is always a good idea – whether it’s down the street to the library or Trader Joe’s, around my neighborhood on a weekend, or over to campus for a meeting.

Eating all the clementines. I’m going through them like they’re candy, and I’m totally fine with that – because they’re bright, delicious and healthy.

My budding amaryllis, which I wrote about the other day, and which might actually be magic.

Working a puzzle at a girlfriend’s house the other night. I agree with Anne: puzzles are relaxing and good for your brain.

Yoga, even if I have to drag myself there (and sometimes I do).

What’s helping you get through, these days?

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Back in mid-December, I bought a potted amaryllis kit from Stephen at my beloved Brattle Square Florist. I always admire the red blooms in the dead of winter, but had never grown one before. And then the pre-holiday madness hit, and the bulb sat in its box on my kitchen shelf for several weeks.

I removed it right after the New Year to find that it had sprouted – but, with no sunlight, the stems and bud were pure white. I panicked, feeling like Charlie Brown with his poor little Christmas tree. Had I killed it with my neglect? Was there any hope for growth or blooms?

I potted it anyway, and set it in a sunny spot near my little African violet, which is loving the winter sunshine and blooming away. And, with some water and a few days of sunlight, a miracle happened.

Look! Bright green healthy stems, gorgeous red blooms, and more on the way.

I am grateful to whatever magic (or scientific wizardry) made the plant sprout on its own, and amazed at the simple alchemy of soil, sunlight and water. And I’m so glad I decided to try potting it instead of giving up.

I’ve got a few paperwhite bulbs in tall vases, and will be watching for them to bloom next.

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