One morning this week I woke up to the fact that we’re more than halfway through Winter. And the surprising thing is that for once it isn’t dragging at all. In years past I’ve spent most of January and February enduring Winter. Focusing either on survival or hibernation or a combination of the two. Prematurely counting every tiny sign of Spring and feeling a bit low when the temperature drops and midwinter makes itself known.
One of the ways we embrace slow living as a family is by hooking ourselves into the rhythm of the seasons. Feeling the shifts and changes and celebrating them in simple ways, by what we eat, how we play and where we go.
When the boys were smaller and I hadn’t quite got my head around it yet, Winter was a kind of non season for us. A cold, dark time of endless sniffles, of arduous layers of clothing only for them to still be cold and whiney. Of not enough sunlight and not enough happening and a general resulting malaise. With my forced daffodils in the shopping trolley I would will myself through the days until March dawned with change in the air. If March decided it was more in with Winter than Spring as it occasionally does, making us wait that bit longer, I’d almost throw myself on the ground in despair.
In recent years I got to grips with surviving Winter. I got my hygge on and after throwing ourselves out into the fresh air we’d rush back to the fire and hibernate. It was okay. I could handle it.
This year, mindful of how our boys at 7 and 3 tend to feel about things how they see us feeling about things, I decided survival and hibernation weren’t quite enough. There is so much to love about all the other seasons. Surely I could learn to love this one?
I think maybe… just maybe, I have!
If you need some help, digging deep and finding some affection for it in these final weeks, here’s what has worked wonders for us this Winter.
My boys differ hugely when it comes to body heat – one is an oven, the other will take any layers you can give him. Working this out took me a while. On long winter adventures, they both wear merino tops and bottoms (under their usual cotton-lined trousers), tees, woolly jumpers and wool socks. For my youngest I might add a woollen tank and a woollen outer layer, before popping them both into waterproofs dungarees and coats (even frosty adventures turn wet and muddy around here by midday). And, of course, woolly hats. They don’t step out of the front door with a hat.
- Thin wool layers under chunkier woollen outers tend to trap in warmth, keeping them snug. With all natural breathable fibres the worry of overheating is taken care of. Plus, they’re old enough to tell me they need to take their coat off for a moment after generating some heat, hiking a big hill.
- Don’t neglect the bottom half. There’s far less whining from our two when they have warm legs and feet.
- Hand-me-down woollens are my favourite kind. Failing that, buy in the sale for next year and buy big. We expect a few seasons out of all our wool.
Two big factors have helped us here this year. The way we heat the house and how we eat.
Heat – counter-intuitive as it may seem, our heating dial has gone down rather than up this year and we’re all the better for it. Wonderful as a warm house is, central heating all around the clock literally dries us out, leaving us more susceptible to picking up colds and the like. We layer up inside as well as out and light the fire when we want to get cosy.
Eat – we’ve spent years cleaning up our diet, so this isn’t just one for Winter. But what we’ve focused on at this time of year is lots of warming slow-cooked foods to warm from the inside out, plenty of fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric for their anti-bac and cleansing properties, lots of greens, plenty of plant-based protein, warm drinks when we come in from the cold. And the hardest but most impactful of all – little to no sugar. Hardest thing to let go of but it’s really helped.
Inviting Winter inside
Inspired by our children’s Steiner School and Kindergarten over time, we’re in the habit of decorating our space whatever the season. Sometimes driven by what they make at school and bring home, or from hunting around for wintry colours and nature treasures; always ever-changing.
Usual features are a seasonal table on top of our dresser (which is, in fact, the craft cupboard), a shift around on the mantel above the fire, something we’ve crafted together for the kitchen and the seasonal story basket.
Tip: For simplicity, we look at each season as a three month period. Yes we see hints of the Spring-to-come as early as now, but for us it doesn’t really feel like Spring until March. Though, just as the seasonal change doesn’t happen overnight, our decorations inside don’t have to all change instantly either. A good thing. Because I don’t have time to overhaul the whole of the decorations in one day! Instead, the boys help me to gradually change things. One picture comes down and another takes its place because we’ve seen snowdrops opening up. Bare twigs are swapped for twigs with buds somewhere along the way. A birds nest appears by way of a little hand. Nothing arduous, simple subtle changes, reflecting what’s happening outside the door. It’s always lovely to see how much they get from it – the connection of inside and out.
It hasn’t been difficult to find a little more love for this season with its showy frosts and dreamily beautiful skies this year. Maybe I’m just paying more attention, but it does feel like there have been more sparkly pastels and less dreary grey and mud.
Whatever the weather is doing, we’re making a conscious effort to get ourselves out. And not for half-hearted trips. With endless layers of wool on each of us, flasks packed and explorers sticks (literally just big sticks that live in our car!) we’ve been attempting full-on frosty adventures. They’ve loved them and it’s helped massively with the cabin fever I sometimes suffer with.
Fresh air, wintery sun on our faces, a brisk stomp and frosty iciness to investigate and we’re all happy. Plus, so many reasons for a fire and hot chocolate when we get home. We’ve earned it.
Tip: embracing the no refined sugar thing, I’ve been inventing my own hot chocolate recipes. Try almond milk, raw cacao, a little coconut oil and a little maple syrup or honey. So good. Also, this turmeric latte. Oh my!
The boys are having a love affair with porridge right now – experimenting with every topping under the sun, finally settling on banana and a touch of honey as their favourite. The combination of warm porridge and a lantern-lit table seems to cast a dreamy magic over them. Add in a chapter of an audiobook while I pack the lunches and they’re in heaven.
This morning was another frosty ice-fest and we had to abandon our cars on the main road above the school and trek the children across two glittery fields to get them there. They gleefully declared it the biggest adventure ever. While I felt super-grateful that they were wrapped up in wool with warm porridge in their bellies. You can just imagine how it could’ve gone otherwise!
Hope you’re enjoying Winter in the ways that work for you x