Surviving winter, some tips from a summer lover

Winter is such a controversial season over here. People are pretty much separated in three categories.

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Category A: Winter lovers. These guys will tell you that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. They enjoy the cold and take every occasion to tell you how amazing it was to go jump in snow in the middle of the night when it was minus a billion degrees outside. They will also tell you that the ice storm is soooo beautiful and that snow really is magical.

Category B: The survivors. These people don’t really like winter but have accepted that it’s part of their lives, and so they keep calm and carry on. When prompted about how cold it is or about how much snow there is, they’ll answer: “Well, it’s not that bad. It could be worse.”

Category C: Summer lovers. These people hate winter. In fact, as soon as fall kicks in, their insides start to churn with the irresistible desire to move to Hawaii or Australia. They pretty much suffer all the way to spring, where they come back to life.

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As you can probably guess by the title, this is my crew. This year, when the first snow hit the ground, I pretty much cried myself to the gym. I will often be moaning about how terrible snow shoveling is, or how unbearably cold the temperatures are. To be fair, living in Quebec has given me quite a lot of winter, tons of snow and incredible subzero temperatures. In an effort to embrace the present moment and to not feel miserable for most of the year, here are some strategies and tips I’ve been prescribing myself this winter. Mind you, I’m still looking forward to summer like a lunatic, but even I have to admit winter is not as bad this year.

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  1. Accept the fact that winter is here to stay: Because happiness is a state of mind, I find it easier to wrap my mind around the fact that when winter is here, it’s here. What I mean by this is that by relinquishing the daily hope that it will be summer for a day, it’s easier to accept that it’s winter and that snow and cold are part of it.
  2. Worship the sun: Because sun is such a rare commodity in the winter months, take every opportunity to soak in every tiny ray of it. Sunbathe behind a window, take that sunsoaked bench at the gym, stop what you are doing and go put your face in the light for a few minutes.  winter6
  3. Create a going outside routine: If it was up to me, I would stay in bed until spring, but that is not happening any time soon. So, I try to make going outside part of my routine. Lately, I’ve been enjoying listening to podcasts while I walk outside in the morning. Adding this to my morning routine means that I have to kick myself out of bed a tad earlier, but it also means that I’ve moved around a little bit before I start working. It also means that I’ve been outisde and survived the cold already.
  4. Explore the outside world: Go on small day trips on the week-ends and explore what different parts of your city or region have to offer in the winter months. This winter, we discovered that a neighbouring town had a really cute ice-skating rink overlooking a spectacular lake. It was cold, it was wet, but we had a lot of fun! winter5
  5. Embrace chilling sessions: Once you have been brave and got your butt outside, treat yourself to some nice chilling sessions. Grab your favourite sweather and book and enjoy being inside. Make it special, make it Danish, and go full hygge style!

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I really hope these tips will help you get through the last months of winter! Spring is almost there, and well, for once winter is not completely killing me. What are your tips?

Book Review: The Little Book of Hygge

I had my eyes on this book for a while, and, so, when I saw The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking at my local bookstore, I just had to bring it home. Hygge was all the rage last year with our European neighbors. I have to say, the hygge craze is yet to catch in Canada, or at least where I live. Most people I talk to have no idea what hygge is. This is really too bad as it is such an amazing concept: cosying up and enjoying time with people you love… hum, yes, please!

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As I learned in the book, Hygge is a Danish word that can be roughly translated as comfort, warmth and togetherness. Hygge is also about contrast: a warm cup of tea and your favourite book vs. a raging snowstorm outside. Sounds familiar anyone? That’s because the Danish people have a rough climate just like we, Canadians, do! That’s why I think Hygge should be completely adopted by Canadians and other cold climate inhabitants.  I mean, I don’t need any excuses to stay in bed when the weather is miserable, but hygge brings this idea to a whole new level.

As you have gathered by now, I really enjoyed feeling backed up by an entire country in my cosying up. Seriously, a book that allows, supports and encourages staying warm and comfortable? Yasss, please! But, if you are not completely sold on the idea of a warm blanket with your favourite movie playing, well the book has a lot more to offer than cosy-up ideas.

The book itself is beautiful. The editing on this is great: beautiful paper, inspiring pictures and easy to read chapters. Plus, it’s the perfect size to read in bed: it’s not too big, not too small, just perfect! The author’s voice is also very friendly and relatable. While reading this book, I had the feeling of exchanging with a friend. I loved the personal anecdotes that make Hygge so much more understandable and the read enjoyable.

The content of the book is also very practical and really makes Hygge accessible now. With a clear emphasis on experiences and simple changes in your house, this book is perfect if you are into the minimalist wave and don’t feel like buying a whole lot of new things to get a Hygge vibe. It includes everything from activity ideas, to crafts and recipes. Yum!

I also really enjoyed being plunged into the Danish culture. Growing up I have always been fascinated by Scandinavia, and when I recently learned that I had Danish and Norwegian ancestry (DNA test, anyone?), it just felt natural to want to learn more about these cultures. The book is filled with anecdotes illustrating the Danish culture and way of living. It’s the perfect preamble to a trip to Copenhagen (totally on my bucket list, btw).

Finally, with world seeming to be completely out of control these days, this book was the perfect relaxing read before going to bed. I really enjoyed reading it every night, and really felt sad to finish it. Luckily, Sweden has Fika and Lagom, and Denmark also has Lykke, so there are other words to explore and adopt. Wishing you a very Hyggelig rest of the week!

 

Preserving Garlic

A few days ago, we raided out our vegetable patch that we had in Montreal and came home with a ton of garlic. Now, because we have been so busy during the summer, we actually let our garlic in the soil for too long, meaning that it did not have those protective paper-like layers around that makes preserving garlic so simple. Our garlic was extra fresh and beautiful, and we really didn’t want it to go to waste.

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So, I made some garlic paste! This has come in so handy already because it means that whenever I need some garlic, I have some already minced perfectly and ready to be used. Great! It was also so easy to prepare and to store, that I’m thinking of doing this with my future garlic purchase… if I ever need to buy some garlic again. Seriously, growing garlic is super simple and so rewarding! For every clove that you plant, you will pull ou 5 or 6 new cloves! How generous and exciting! We planted around 15 cloves and ended up with a 100 garlic cloves. That’s garlic for you!

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Anyways, here is the basic process of making garlic paste.

For around 10 heads of garlic, you will need 1 cup of olive oil:

  1. Peel and wash each garlic clove. Place them in your food processor with 1 cup of olive oil.
  2. Process until you have a smooth paste. If you prefer to have minced garlic, just process the garlic for a shorter time.
  3. Place in clean masson jars, ice cube trays or freezer-friendly container of your choice. Fill up your container leaving some space for some extra olive oil to cover the top. Close the lids tightly and place in your freezer!

Now, because there is olive oil, this should stay soft enough for you to scoop out a few teaspoon at a time. When cooking, consider that one teaspoon makes for about 1 garlic clove. You don’t need to add any olive oil to your pan as it’s already there. I’m really enjoying having this on hand, and so I really recommend you to try it out! Let me know what you are preserving for the winter!

5 tips to feel good

January and February are usually hard months for me to go through because of the lack of sunlight, the cold and a general feeling of “what’s the point”. Here are 5 tips to help you feel good, prevent you from staying in bed all day and get to March.

  1. Pamper yourself: When I feel grumpy, I usually get into a circle of just doing the essential and skipping through the superficial, extra step. However, this superficial-extra-step is so important! Whatever it might mean for you (putting on some make-up, lotion, conditioner; thinking about what you’re wearing; preparing some tea while working; using your favourite mug; or putting on your lucky pair of socks), taking the time to take care of yourself really makes a difference. It makes sense too: this extra attention to yourself will make you feel better in your skin (or lucky socks).

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    Enjoying a fancy cup of tea is a real treat!

  2. Adopt a daily routine (or revamp an old one): This year I’m trying out Yoga Camp from Adriene. For the entire month of January she is uploading one yoga video per day. This guarantees that I have 30 minutes per day to reconnect with myself and try to stop worrying or planning. However, you might choose to allow yourself to read before sleeping, enjoy a fresh cup of tea while knitting, or tidying your bag as soon as you get back from work/school. The idea here is to give yourself some time to really focus on something and get your mind to settle for a little while.
  3. Invest time in a passion: Today was an extra hard day, and the reason why I’m not in my bed anymore is because I really wanted to write something here. I have been enjoying this blogging very much, and I love giving it time. I feel like having this time to look forward to, planning the articles and writing them is structuring my days and weeks outside of work, which is great.
  4. Visit family and friends: Misery might love company, but having company might lift up the misery! (yes we are making our own sayings now!) Surrounding myself with loved ones and listening to what’s going on in their lives, sharing ideas (and food), and discovering new things always sheers me up. Even though it might sometimes feel like it is impossible to get to the person (smirk to late, over-packed buses), once there, it is always worth it, so let’s go!
  5. Get plenty of night-time sleep and eat well: It is really easy to get into the habit of reading or surfing the internet for hours at end. It is also possible that cooking or eating is not quite as interesting. Well, it is very important to keep up with regular sleeping hours and balanced meals as these two things will influence your mood as well as your energy level (and patience with students or coworkers). You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by sabotaging your sleeping patterns or start craving junk food because you are hungry. Do this for yourself and the people around you.

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    I decided to set up a new table for breakfast so that we could enjoy the morning sun more, and took time to actually think about breakfast. Yum! (Recipe coming soon!)

Rereading these tips, I realize that they can pretty much be summed up to “TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!” Things will get easier, spring will come, and new opportunities will come. You want to be extra ready for those, so take care of yourself to make sure that they don’t find you in bed with dirty hair.

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Toots wanted to participate in breakfast too!