Tag Archives: Winter

Winter survival

Winters in the midatlantic are the bane of my existence.  There are few things more miserable to me than a 3 month stretch of 40° and rainy.  Except for the few times we actually get snow, and I’ve got to dig my car out and navigate streets through a city whose approach to winter road maintenance is “snow:  it’ll melt.  Eventually.”  But the weather is just the salt in the wound created by the darkness, all the time.  Dark when I get up.  Dark when I leave.  Dark when I get home.  When spring finally rolls around, I feel a veil lift from me that I hadn’t realized had been there.  I feel like a new person.

Do you suffer from self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder?  What strategies do you have to manage?  Here are a few of mine:

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”  Well, I don’t exactly agree with this.  Of course there is such a thing as bad weather.  But appropriate clothing certainly helps.  I live in the city and take transit/walk to work, so being prepared for the elements is key.
First, look to the Canadians:  I have a pair of Blondo boots that are completely waterproof, salt proof, super warm…and yet work-appropriate and stylish.  Not cheap, but so worth it.  I wear them all the time on rainy, nasty winter days. La Canadienne is another brand of stylish winter boots, but I think they’re even more expensive.
I also recommend down.  My down puffy coat may look a little…puffy, but it is nearly impervious to cold once I have it on a few minutes.  I love it.  Finally, I believe that if I am going to spend money on clothing, it should be multifunctional.  I should be able to climb Everest in the morning and show up at work in the afternoon wearing the same outfit.  Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.  One item I have that I love is this dress from Nau (this one, maybe?) that is just the perfectly normal little black dress — you can wear it out or office it up with a cardigan and belt — but it’s made with wicking, quick-dry fabric so it’s the first thing I grab out of my closet on rainy days.  Retailers like Nau and Patagonia are expensive but if you catch their sales (I never pay full price) they are about the same as non-outdoorsy stores.

Get sunshine when you can.  I always have to force myself away from my desk in the afternoon, but I am always glad I do, even when it’s freezing.  Being outside, in the sunshine just really lifts my mood.  Most of the year, I am a major stickler for sunscreen, but in the winter, I use a moisturizer with no SPF.  You want to get as much vitamin D as possible, and often my face is the only skin exposed to the light!

Don’t neglect yourself.  It’s easy to lock yourself indoors with an endless mug of hot chocolate and rich, decadent food in the winter — but take care of yourself.  You will really feel so much better.

At the end of the day, though, no matter what I do, I’m still pretty much a miserable, short-tempered mess all winter and the only real cure for me is spring.  Do you have any recommendations?  Do you use a light box or other device?  Take up winter sports?  Or some secret miracle drug?  Share your ideas!

-R

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Winter running

After a nearly 3 week hiatus, I finally resumed my running routine yesterday.  Last time I went for a jog, I was wearing shorts — but the weather has changed drastically in that short amount of time!  As you can see above, my backyard pond has already frozen over.  Highs are in the mid-thirties this week, with windchill down to the teens!  But I was determined to not let that stop me.

I kept reminding myself that I ran all summer in 100-degree heat, and that running in the cold is probably equally uncomfortable — just different — right?  As with any physical activity in any kind of extreme, it takes a little more preparation.  Here is one article with some basic winter running tips.

I wore:
Target running tights — for $25, these were great and kept me just warm enough.  I wish they were lined, flat-seamed and had pockets — but I’m not sure whether a nicer brand is worth the extra price for now.
Patagonia Capilene 3 top — I love these for layering in the winter and they work great for jogging, biking, hiking and other activities in chilly weather.  They keep you very warm without overheating.  Expensive if you pay full price, but I always buy last season’s on sale. I can usually find them for 50%-60% off (if you don’t care which color you get).
-A fleece vest I purchased for $5 at Old Navy.  Can’t really go wrong with that price.
-And of course, gloves and a hat.

So I set out and was immediately taken aback by how quiet everything was.  No lawnmowers, no kids playing in the street, no dogs barking — everything was just so peaceful.  My run went great — the best run I’ve had in a long time.  I think my body really needed that break.  As for the cold, the tights were great at cutting the windchill and I felt sufficiently warm with my outfit.

So now I’m not so intimidated by winter running — but ask me again when snow and ice are covering the ground :).

-R

Winter pasta dish with roasted brussels sprouts


This time of year, lovely stalks of brussels sprouts start appearing in grocery stores.  Brussels sprouts are a member of the brassica family, and along with cousins broccoli, cabbage and kale, are known for their high nutrient content.  I did not always appreciate this vegetable, since it is often just boiled and served plain as a side.  But here is a dish that really highlights its rich and nutty flavor.

I was inspired by this recipe I found on finecooking.com:  Orechiette with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola and Brown-Butter Pecans.  Personally, I am not a fan of heavy cream sauces so I replaced about half the cream in this recipe with white wine and vegetable broth (or some reserved pasta-cooking liquid).  I also altered some of the instructions, which shouldn’t make a huge difference in the outcome; it was more a result of being too lazy to look up the recipe again. Either way, it turned out deliciously!

To begin:  preheat oven to 500 degrees and start boiling a salted pot of water for the pasta.  I used orecchiette pasta in the picture above, and whole wheat conchiglie in the two at the bottom of this post.

Toast the pecans.  This was my favorite aspect of the dish, and toasting the nuts is extremely important to bring out their lovely flavor.  I just set them in a cast iron skillet (you can use any kind of skillet, really) over medium heat until they started browning and were highly fragrant.

Set these aside, and work on the brussels sprouts.  Slice the sprouts, using a food processor or by hand.  Coat in olive oil, add some salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, until they start to look charred.

In the meantime, heat oil or butter in a large skillet, and add chopped shallots.  When translucent, add about a quarter cup of white wine, about a quarter cup of heavy cream, and another quarter cup of broth, and another of gorgonzola cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  You can adjust those amounts based on how thick you prefer your sauce — and how much you like gorgonzola.

Toss in the pecans and brussels sprouts, stir to coat and cook for a few more minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Just before pasta is done cooking, reserve a cup of the water and drain.  Toss the pasta in the skillet, adding some of the reserved water as necessary.  Cover and continue cooking, stirring and adding more water occasionally, until pasta is thoroughly done.

Yum!  This was a delicious and hearty main dish that is quick enough for a weeknight and packed with nutrition.

Enjoy!

-R

Winter gardening

Winter.  Did I really just write that in the post title?  Are we seriously approaching that time of year yet again?  Yikes.  It seems November has ushered in a new level of cold.  With the threat of the season’s first frost looming, I finally admitted to myself that it was time to dismantle my beloved vegetable garden and prepare for the oncoming  weather.

It was really not looking so well anyway.  The tomato and pole bean vines had become mostly brown and droopy, with little fruit:

There were still a number of unripe vegetables, so I picked them all in the hope that they would ripen off the vine:

It also killed me to tear out my basil plants — there was so much left!  By this time of year, however, the allelochemicals produced by plants like basil — which make them so delicious to us, but unappetizing to particular insects — have really built up in the leaves.  This can cause them to taste tough and bitter.  I thought it was a crapshoot as to whether or not this batch of basil would be edible, but I hated to throw it all away.  So I made a paste by pureeing in olive oil (see this entry for herb preservation) and stuck it in my freezer.  Hopefully I’ll not forget about it and make some pesto down the road…

When my garden was cleared, I finally transplanted the kale seedlings I started in late summer.  I am kind of far behind on this.  Starting from seed was much harder than I anticipated! Oh how naïve I was.  A number of fiascos required me to replant them, including a moment when my dog, in reckless pursuit of a squirrel, plowed through an entire group of little seedlings I had set outside.

Nonetheless, I have five plants that seem to be hanging on to dear life. I finally planted them in the space formerly occupied by those overgrown tomatoes, beans and peppers pictured above.

And hopefully they continue to hang on throughout the fall and winter.  Only time will tell!

-R