Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter, post-twinkly lights

This time of year can be utterly delicious...or altogether overwhelming.

The dark mornings are cozy and enveloping, or isolating and unnerving. The unending parade of root vegetables and hearty stews from your kitchen to your dining table are nourishing and comforting, or weighty and overwhelming. The layering on of flannels and wool and cashmere before you open your front door can be embracing and comfortable, or suffocating and obtrusive.

I suppose it all depends on how much you can take. How bracing and invigorating (or not) you find single-digit temperatures and rosy (or numb) cheeks.

I tend to luxuriate in this time of year, but whether that's because I have a cocooning nature or because I tend to do quite a few things that help—I'm not sure. Regardless, after all the recent festivities and whatnot I've been reinstating or re-emphasizing quite a few things to keep that happy, wallow-y winter thrill going strong:

+ Citrusy bursts: A bowlful of tangerines, satsumas, clementines or anything of that nature sitting on your table will do wonders for your mood. And it's not just about eating them (although, of course that's a good thing to do, too), but seeing that burst of vibrant richness every time you walk by will give you a little boost. Since I sit at a computer all day, I also change up my laptop wallpaper to a luminescent yellow scene to combat the grey and darkness.

+ Countertop cold medicine: Speaking of things to nibble on, rather than going heavy on the root vegetable-dense stews, I try to get in lots and lots of platefuls of spicy, garlicky greens, as well as herbaceous broths with bits of chicken or egg to keep me feeling light, but cozy, strengthened and protected against the sniffles and coughs that run rampant this time of year.

+ Reading in bed: I've fallen out of habit of reading in bed and now I'm consciously trying to work that back in, rather than staying up on the couch knitting up until bedtime. I realized that when I read in bed, I sleep much deeper (and fall asleep faster!). I think the combination of getting cuddly and warm under the covers + a nice chunk of time sans screens and their glare + very soft lighting slowly lulls me away.

+ Yoga: For some reason, I hadn't done yoga for weeks and weeks and weeks, but before heading back to work after a lengthy holiday break, I decided a candlelit session was in order on the first Monday of the year. My body felt so limber and my mind felt so light afterwards that I did it again the next day, and then the day after that, too. The frigid temperature of our apartment in the morning, plus the darkness, make going down to the gym or even doing more calisthenic workouts at home just too much for me to handle. Strong, graceful poses, though—that I can do.

+ "Scheduling" walks: Brunch plans seem to be in hibernation, but when something pops up on the calendar I try to find good options that are walkable within an hour so I can make it a point to stroll there and back, or at least one-way, and maybe even work in some other errands along the route.

+ Morning rituals: The frothy, milky tea is not going away any time soon. It takes a few minutes longer to make and that, plus me waiting to open my laptop in the morning, has given way to some nice, quiet-time reflection (perfect time to pick up a pen). I've gotten so used to this that now if my morning time doesn't happen I get a little grumpy. Speaking of pens, have y'all ever heard of Bullet Journaling? I'm a Google (and thus, Google Calendar) fanatic for all my planning and to-do's and organizing, but, I'm beginning to once again hear the siren call of paper and pen. Could be an automatic reaction to the changing of the year...could also be me rebelling against all things digital.

+ Ambient noise for focusing: Cold weather just makes you want to cuddle up and day dream, right? Hard to do when there's work to be done, though. And, even harder when it gets dark earlier and the thought of writing one more PowerPoint slide or terse email just puts you over the edge, no? I tend to not listen to music while working because my work almost always requires writing of some sort, and I find myself humming along and writing out the lyrics versus a brand manifesto or key message or what have you. Enter ambient noise sites. I found Coffitivity a while ago and I totally agree with what they say:

"Research shows it's pretty hard to be creative in a quiet space. And a loud workplace can be frustrating and distracting (Amen! - J). But, the mix of calm and commotion in an environment like a coffee house is proven to be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing."

It works quite well and I like using it, but after a while I tired of the same thing, so I stopped clicking over to their site. Then last week I found a few more via Lifehacker:

There's Jazz & Rain, which is...exactly that. I like that you can toggle the sound of both the rain and the Jazz (which is a fairly nice mix, but can sometimes be a bit much), but what if you're working inside on a sunny day? Putting on rain seems silly. So, here's Soundrown, my favorite ambient noise app site because it has a little bit of everything: coffee shop, rain, waves, fire, birds, night, train (!), fountain, white noise, and playground (!). Granted, no music, but I like to mix and match the others to create my own Jazz. A little bit of roaring fire, plus a few waves, plus a little coffee shop noise = perfection. It's like sitting with friends at a wintry cottage by the sea with a roaring fire.

+ Twinkling on: Not all of the twinkly lights have to come down. This year I kept one strand looped around the jumbo mirror that hangs above our dining table. While I light candles any time I'm home for a decent amount of time, it's nice to walk in from the dark outside and just flick a switch to have a smattering of pearly lights wink back at me and light up our apartment immediately.

How do you get through winter?

One year ago: One month of Pure Synergy vitamins & superfood powder & All Good Things Market in Tribeca


  1. I love this so much, all your ideas. And there goes your beautiful writing your descriptions have always been so vivid... I've sort of been lazy and started kindling (i know horror) because I was reading books too quickly. I'm going to go and buy some real books again, i so miss a real book! (besides the price of ebooks is not cheaper anyway). And YES to the call of the pen and paper...I've been really feeling it big time this month! Maybe it's the start of the new year calling us. Btw phenomenal links, I've never seen/heard about anything like this! Love the coffee house one... yeah and rain and jazz...

    1. Aww, so glad to hear! And thank you for saying such a nice thing! :)

      Totally understand how reading too fast can be. Right now I mostly double up—one e-book for the commute (which I swap out with magazines) and one paper-book for the nightly ritual. Keeps things interesting...and efficient! When it comes to costs, did you ever by chance have a NYPL account? I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll still be able to use it when we move because I'm thinking English books in paper will be hard to find/expensive, but I could maybe still download NYPL English books to e-readers!

      I've seen evidence of your paper/pen calling! Keep those glimpses coming :).

      And, enjoy those links—glad to have shared something new with you :).

    2. I REALLY wonder if you'd be able to do that... funny enough I tried to buy an italian book on and i was told that they don't "deliver" to my location...umm.... hellooooooo it's and EBOOK you don't need to DELIVER! but i guess what they meant is they dont have license to sell to the netherlands. and that same ebook on is double the price. But maybe nypl is not so advanced and sneaky :)

    3. HA, oh Italy and its silliness. :) I see what you mean about licenses, but maybe that's only a factor for purchases, because on a few separate vacations outside the US I didn't like the books I brought and I used NYPL to download e-books to my reader, so I THINK it should work as a regular thing, right?

  2. hey you can have a midnight campfire on the beach! i LOVE it!

    1. HA! Excellent mixing—that's a great combo!

    2. New favorite combo: Train on low and Coffeeshop on medium. It's like being in the dining car of a nice train in Europe :).

  3. Beautifully written! I also LOVE reading in bed.

    1. Thank you! And, yes, me too. Has just gotten so hard because we have different bedtimes and R CANNOT sleep if there's even a smidgen of light (while I, graciously, can), so I either have to go to bed with him at 8PM'ish and read for a bit, or...not. :/

    2. That is quite inconvenient. I got a kindle light for xmas, which doesn't bug C if I put it at a low brightness setting, so that's our solution (but means electronics in bed).

    3. Ha, yes, extremely so! For a while I was using the night-time/low-light setting for e-books on our tablet, too, but then the whole electronics in bed got to me and it got kiboshed.

      I mean, really, I should just go to bed early. What's the big deal, right? But it just feels so wrong to be asleep so early. Like I need even more evidence (knitting, aversion to loud noises/clubs/drunkenness, penchant for robe and fuzzy socks, prolific maker of chicken soups, etc., drinker of whiskey) that I'm a grandma in a 30-year old's body ;).


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