Long Time Coming

A pretty, first snow fell in the Twin Cities on October 14, then disappeared providing weeks to prepare for the next season. Winter this year has been an unreliable roommate making Monday commutes miserable then offering a day or two of mild temps. A stingy relative refusing to share sunshine unless temps freeze cheeks. A mean neighbor dumping snow, ice, rain, sleet, snow and more snow making skating rink maintenance or sidewalk cleaning just miserable. 

Minnesota has not received the enormous snow dumps of Buffalo or the California mountains, but if you bought new boots this year you made a good decision. If you remembered dressing following extreme cold guidelines and prepared for the bus stop or parking lot hike looking like a Squishmallow with legs, bravo. Some of us gave up on attractive sleepwear to pull on flannels, hoodies and socks after dinner then stayed in the same as long as possible in the morning. Hard-core Minnesotans supposedly wear long undies twenty-four seven from November through March except when they escape for their winter getaway.

Beyond puzzle construction time, optimal sleep conditions may be winter’s attraction. No sun peeking around the window coverings when you go to bed, nothing sticking to your warm body, no birds at five in the morning.

Whatever the statistics are for this year, it has been a long time coming since we could wander outside consistently without a hat or gloves or boots. Oh, the joy of leaving the puffer coat unzipped and wearing old shoes when running errands. The amazing experience to eat dinner while natural light brightens the kids’ faces. There will be more snow, but it will be short lived. We’re heading into t-shirt, jeans and a light cover season. We are going to eat outside before the mosquitos multiply. 

Meantime, stay upright and don’t drop into a road crater. We have about as much control over shortening winter’s existence as our governments appear to have over rebuilding critical infrastructure. That will be a really long, long time coming.

Trying Hard to Embrace Winter (even though I hate being cold)

Although this week is a blessed reprieve, winter came WAY too early to Minnesota. This year, we had high temps in the mid-20s on Veteran’s Day and by mid-month we had single digit lows. And snow. Jeesh.

This unwelcome weather called for drastic rethinking of my usual approach: gritting my teeth, hunching my shoulders against the cold, and waiting for it to be over. Instead, I’m trying to embrace winter and focus on what I do like. So here goes—

Drinking hot tea – Holding a hot mug full of tea warms you up. Drinking it warms you up even more. I don’t see much of my favorite mugs during summer, so it’s a treat to pull them out. I stash the peppermint and green tea with blueberry (good as iced tea) in favor of Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane and Gingerbread Spice—teas that are sold only in winter.

Eating homemade soup and stew – Stew is such an ugly word for the wonder that is Guinness stew (tender chunks of beef braised for hours in a rich beer and onion gravy served over champ – an Irish version of mashed potatoes made with green onions) or Hungarian goulash – not the hamburger hotdish, but beef simmered with spicy paprika and onions. Chicken mole chilé – spicy with a hint of cocoa – the taste is rich with nothing sweet about it. Tortellini soup with chunks of carrots, zucchini, and Italian sausage. Mmmmm.

Spitzbuben are sandwich cookies made with ground pecans, butter, flour and sugar. Raspberry jam holds them together. Don't tell my husband there's one missing! Quality control.

Spitzbuben are sandwich cookies made with ground pecans, butter, flour and sugar. Raspberry jam holds them together. Don’t tell my husband there’s one missing! Quality control.

Baking Christmas cookies – Maybe I should really say eating Christmas cookies since that’s mostly what I do. My husband is a whirling baking dervish who makes dozens of breads, spitzbuben, chocolate cherry espresso drops, spicy peanut butter cookies dipped in chocolate, and almond bars, while all I usually manage to make is a batch of ginger cookies and frosted sugar cookies.

Watching TV shows while I exercise (re: cookies) – While I log miles on the treadmill, I catch up on the TV shows I never watch from April through October. I love going to the movie theater to see the year’s best movies. Plus, Mad Men and Downton Abbey resume in January (geeky fun – I can’t wait!)

Wearing Smartwool sox – OMG are they expensive, but they work. My feet are warm and dry. So worth it. So are silk long johns, a puffy down coat, shearling boots, mittens, and earmuffs. Yes, I’m aware that by New York standards I’m one big walking Fashion Don’t. And I get tired of putting on all of that, but I hate being cold even more, so look out for the hot pink parka headed your way – that’s me.

lightsSeeing Christmas lights, moonlight on snow, sundogs on January mornings – Yes, I hate that it’s full dark at 5:00 p.m. in December, but there’s something so fanciful about Christmas lights—they help tamp down the gloom. To me, it’s magical when the moon reflects off the snow and casts blue shadows—so occasionally I’m willing to don all of the gear described above so I can walk on a quiet winter’s night. Blue shadowsSundogs (flame-shaped rainbows that flank the rising sun like parentheses) appear only in the dead of winter when it’s really cold—a small compensation for being up early when it’s minus 20.

I haven’t completely lost my mind. I still hate tear-your-face-off winds, shoveling snow, icy sidewalks, slushy streets, sooty snow clumps chunking off my car and hulking in the garage. And no, I’m not a skiing, skating, snowmobiling, ice fishing nut. But winter does have its rewards and if I’m going to win this battle against Mother Nature, I have to outwit her. Starting now. With Irish coffee – the kind with Bushmills and whipped cream.

How do YOU cope with winter?

Comfort and Joy in a Twinkling

What is it about Christmas lights that create joy? I love sitting in my darkened house with only the glow of twinkling lights from the tree and the holiday village. Those tiny colored lights make my ordinary family room feel magical. Wonder creeps in and I feel as contented and hopeful as I did during childhood holidays.


Too often, darkness encroaches this time of year. In the morning, when I get ready for work, daylight is still an hour away. After work, I’m uneasy as I walk the dark block to my car. Streetlights throw faint circles of light and I hurry from one to another. Melancholy eddies around me when the days are so short.

Some residual instinct insists that we should not live and work in the dark. That must be why cultures across the world use light (Yule logs, Hanukkah candles, or strings of tiny lights) to dispel the discomfort of short dark days.

P1030704For me, these pinpricks of gold, red, green, blue and white light have the power to transform the dark from something unsettling into something mesmerizing.

The WordSisters wish you holidays that are merry and bright!