• Seasonal Living

    Making the Most of Winter

    26 January, 2018

    As January fades into February and the sparkle of the festive period has been packed away for another year, suddenly that notion of the bleak midwinter starts to leave its frosty footsteps across our thoughts. It’s cold and dark, the trees are bare, and we’re left with a reality of winter that can be difficult to embrace.

    But there are good things about this time of year, hidden beneath the surface like bulbs waiting for spring. And in case you need a little help unearthing them, here are a few suggestions for how to make the most of winter:

    Stock up on seasonal produce

    Contrary to popular belief, plentiful fresh produce is not just a luxury of summer. We may have a good half a year before we see juicy stone fruits and ripe tomatoes again, but the colder months have their highlights, too. Winter is a time for the rich, earthy flavours of root vegetables – and not just those dependable old favourites, the parsnip and the swede, but also more unusual buried treasures such as Jerusalem artichokes and celeriac. Above ground, there are leafy greens aplenty in the form of hardy winter cabbages: the January King (a cross between a Savoy and a white cabbage, its frilly dark green leaves tinged with purple) is a favourite in our house. I have to admit that it’s a difficult period for fruit lovers, but the trusty apple can always be relied upon for a refreshing crunch or a warming crumble. Cox, Cameo, Rubens and Russet are all good late varieties. Winter is also citrus season and, if you’re willing to extend your food miles to Europe, you can enjoy the jewel of January (and February): the blood orange. These blushing beauties are perhaps my favourite fruit of the entire year, and one of very few things that can persuade me and Jack to break our usual rule of buying only local, or at least British, produce.

    Find a light in the dark

    As much as I’m an autumn-winter girl through and through, the lack of light does start to get me down after a while. But, instead of wishing away a whole season in anticipation of sunshine yet to come, I find it’s best to embrace the darker days as the perfect excuse to bring an atmospheric glow to your home. A candlelit breakfast before work is such a simple idea, but it somehow feels so decadent and sets a deliciously slow, intentional tone for the day ahead. If you’re lucky enough to have an open fireplace or a wood-burning stove, a crackling fire makes for an equally cosy evening – and of course, if you can’t do this at home, you can always hunt out a good pub instead! Even a string of twinkling fairy lights can turn a grey afternoon from melancholy to magical. And if, like me, the gloom has you struggling to get up in the morning, a sunrise alarm clock can work wonders. We bought one a few weeks ago and it’s made such a difference…full review coming soon!

    Embrace creativity

    It can often be hard to find the time to make something just for fun, but social engagements tend to be fewer during the winter and this can leave little windows for creativity. So take advantage of any bad weather days by picking up a pencil, a paintbrush, your knitting needles, or any other artistic implement of your choice, and get crafting. If you need some inspiration, I really recommend Emma Mitchell‘s wonderful book Making Winter – Jack bought me a copy for Christmas and it’s full of beautiful seasonal ideas. If craft isn’t your thing, you could write a letter or a story (my lovely friend Sophie sends out weekly prompts with her project, The Writing Habit), bake something delicious, or brave the elements with your camera and capture winter in all its glory. I’m currently taking Sara Tasker‘s photography course, Gloom & Glow, and so far it’s been a brilliant way to stay focused on all the things there are to love about this time of year.

    Spend quality time

    Long, dark evenings at home and weekends spent waiting for the clouds to clear are the perfect occasions to spend some quality time with family or friends. Get out the board games, host a film night, wrap up warm and go or a walk (pub-with-fire stop essential), or spend an afternoon sourcing the best seasonal ingredients for a fancy supper – with candles, of course.

    Take care of yourself

    Similarly, those extra hours at home can be great for scheduling in some proper self-care time. I feel so much less guilty about taking an afternoon nap when it’s either miserable weather outside or already getting dark, and the same can be said for a long bath or the chance to read a few more pages of a book. Look after your skin to protect against the cold and wind, drink plenty of hot tea (Echinacea and ginger are both good for keeping colds away) and use this time to rest. Think of these quieter months as a sort of hibernation period that allows you to replenish your energy and inspiration ready for spring.

    Look ahead

    If you’re still not persuaded that there’s joy to be found in winter, you’ve always got the option of looking ahead. We all know that January can be a great time for setting goals and intentions for the coming year, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the anticipation of new seasons if that kind of planning isn’t for you. List-making can be a fun and creative way to map out the kind of year you’d like to have: books to read, places to visit, skills to learn, dishes to cook. I also love to start looking out for signs that spring is on its way – catkins and tiny buds on the trees, green shoots emerging from frozen earth. Snowdrops, hellebores and cyclamen are already appearing, and the crocuses and cheery yellow daffodils won’t be far behind. Before you know it, there’ll be lambs in the fields and the first swallows will be returning from their African adventures.

    What are your favourite ways to embrace the winter months? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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    4 comments
    Making the Most of Winter

    • Hali says:

      I have to admit- I feel both a little jealous and a little lucky after reading this. We’re calling today cold because we’re wearing socks and don’t have the doors flung open all afternoon- but it’s dry and sunny and 64f outside! So I kind of feel nostalgic for a shivery cold and dark day- you bring such magic to the idea of a midwinter. I’ll be sourcing some veg for a stew at the farmers market on Sunday in your honor- even though it is predicted to be a warm 75 degrees. This was such a great read- thank you!

      • Maddy says:

        Hey Hali! Yes, I guess winter in LA/Hawaii looks quite different to the one we experience here! So glad you enjoyed the blog post 🙂 Hope you made it to the farmers’ market – can’t wait to hear what you cooked up! x

    • Kathy Mason says:

      I roasted a Crown Prince Squash a thing of beauty, soft green grey in colour, like a celadon pot a thing of beauty.
      I cut a small lid at the top, scooped out the seeds ,cleaning off a few ready to dry so I can plant later in spring. Put it on an baking tray and roast for 45min the skin colour will change but the flesh stays wonderfully orange, once tender the flavour is rich and nutty ideal for soups or pumpkin pie or just serve as a side vegetable.

      • Maddy says:

        That sounds so delicious, – thank you so much for sharing, Kathy! I love Crown Prince squashes too. We finally used up the last of the ones that decorated the tables at my 30th birthday a little while ago…they made a delicious soup. x