broadsideblog

Ten Mid-Winter Cheer-Ups

In art, beauty, behavior, domestic life, entertainment, life on January 23, 2012 at 12:51 am
NYC: Porto Rico Coffee Reflection

One of my favorite NYC stores! Image by Professor Bop via Flickr

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and are heading into our fourth month of cold, snow, ice and short days, it’s time for a cheer-up!

Here are ten ideas:

Spend as much as you can afford on fresh flowers. Even $20 or $30 will fill several containers with living color, scent and beauty for a few weeks. I snagged $16 worth of white lilies from the supermarket last week and they’re still blooming and fragrant in the bedroom and dining room. So lovely to open the front door to a hit of scent! If you have nothing to put them in, check out your local thrift shop.

A long walk, preferably with a camera in hand. Snow and ice transform the landscape in unexpected ways. The jagged stone walls surrounding our apartment building, covered with snow, look exactly like a row of teeth!

A long talk with someone you adore. Make a phone date  — or face to face, better yet — and settle in for a good 30 minutes or more. Forget email and Facebook.

Bake! This morning I cranked out blueberry/banana muffins and spice muffins. Easy, fun, something nice to look forward to every morning for a week or more. If you haven’t replenished your pantry, make sure you’ve got the staples on hand for when inspiration hits.

A small pretty treat for your home. Check out the sales at old favorites like Pottery Barn, Home Goods, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, Anthropologie, Wisteria, Sundance — a few of my on-line favorites. For even $20 or 30, you can enjoy a new set of hand towels, a few new dishtowels, some pretty candles, a 2 x 3 foot cotton throw rug from Dash & Albert, some fresh pillowcases. Check out Etsy for affordable and charming choices. Here’s the Dash & Albert rug we ordered for our living room.

Make fresh tea — in a teapot. Enough with this awful Americanism of “tea” being one sad teabag stuck in a mug of hot water. I think not! You need a proper china or pottery teapot; here’s one shaped like Big Ben! Some lovely teas, maybe a few you’ve never tried before. I love Constant Comment (with orange and spices), cardamom/chai, Earl Grey and even (wild stuff) Lapsang Souchong, whose smoky, tarry flavor makes me feel like I’ve been licking the deck of some 17th century frigate. If your local store doesn’t have these, order from my favorite New York purveyors, both of which are more than 100 years old, Porto Rico Coffee & Tea, (try their pumpkin spice or chocolate raspberry coffee), and McNulty’s. Even better if you’ve got a lovely bone china teacup with saucer; check out this one, in blue toile, for a mere $9.75. Aaaaaah.

Something cashmere. A pair of socks, or gloves, or a watch cap or scarf, or a turtleneck sweater. The sharp-eyed can always find one affordably in a local thrift or consignment shop.

A massage. If you’re really lucky, your sweetie knows how and is happy to provide. If you can afford it — usually $65 or more — a scented rubdown is sheer bliss after months of being swaddled in wool and rubber, our chilled muscles stiff and sore. My local drugstore sells a bottle of eucalyptus scent for a few dollars…add it to some light oil and you’re good to go.

A stack of library books you’re dying to read. Make them two-week returns so you won’t procrastinate! I recently read, and totally loved, “The House in France” by Gully Wells, a memoir.

Get out your pens, pencils, watercolors, oils, paper, wool, threads, fabric, dye….and create! Borrow your kids’ Legos or Barbies or trolls. Turn off every single electronic “toy” and use the best one of of all — your brain!

Bonus: Paint something: a bathroom, a funky chair from the thrift store, a bookcase you’re sick of, (one of ours recently went from deep olive green to pale yellow/green to match the walls. Big difference!) A fresh coat of paint in a new-to-you color is a guaranteed happiness-inducer: quick, cheap, eye-opening. Here’s a $10 guide from House Beautiful magazine with some wonderful choices. The British company Farrow & Ball makes the yummiest colors ever. They’re expensive, but even a sample pot will give you enough to re-do a lampshade or lamp base or a small table top. Here’s a sample of Straw, a great neutral mustard tone which we chose for our very small (5 by 7)  and only bathroom; two years in, we still love it.

  1. I completely agree with all your ideas, especially the cashmere, proper tea & baking and I have one more to add. Our dark sky is incredible just now and inspired by Brian Cox we are all actively star gazing here in UK. I heard that 2012 is the best year to see the Northern Lights so I am going to Iceland next week in an attempt to lie back and watch a spectacular winter sky. Cant wait!

    • It sounds fantastic. Lucky you — Iceland is high on my must-visit list.

      I live too close to NYC with too much light pollution….the darkest (and best) skies I’ve ever seen were in Africa, New Mexico and from the Grand Canyon. It’s amazing how many you can see when you can finally see them.

  2. Damn, you’re one ambitious person! Can’t I just get cozy under the covers and never leave my bed until Spring?

  3. All great ideas even if you live in the Sunshine State like I do. We bundle up if the thermometer drops below 60 here! I’m gonna take you up on your baking suggestion and immediately deliver the brownies to my new neighbors. Since I’m feeling ambitious, I’ve also got the crock pot cranked up with a London broil and veggies. Nothing warms a house like the aroma of a home-cooked meal. Love your blog!

  4. I love this list!

    Winter is my least favorite time of year, but the smell of a pot of warm tea poured in a fancy china cup (I have exactly one) gives me warm winter fuzzies.

    And yes, fresh flowers in a funky thrift store vase add charm and cheer to any room. I’ve keep $30 in my monthly budget for this purpose – money well spent as far as I’m concerned. It’s a great reminder that spring is around the corner.

    • Thanks! I find tea such a lovely choice in so many ways….soothing, relaxing, a clear moment for yourself, and so much more interesting a way to rehydrate than another bottle of cold water.

      I have a jade plant beside my computer as well that is shiny and thriving. Inspiring.

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