When I was in a teenager, I used to live in Minnesota, USA. The winters there are fierce and temperatures get down to – 40 C. Minnesota is also known as the land of the lakes, and in winter those lakes freeze solid to a meter or more. Minnesotans gleefully drive their 4×4 trucks onto the ice and partake in the curious sport of ice fishing.
Winters in Minnesota are undeniably beautiful. The cold temperatures mean the snow stays fluffy and white for months at a time and the sky is always a vivid blue. The air is also very dry, which makes it feel fresh and brisk, rather than damp.
You would think my time in Minnesota may have toughened me up, but you would be wrong. Everything in Minnesota is geared towards cold weather: incredible insulation, heated garages, skyways, and vast indoor shopping centres. You never need to go outside unless you want to, in which case you wear a coat which is so padded you end up wider than you are tall.
Returning to the U.K. was a shock. The houses I lived in were badly insulated and the humid weather means that the cold seeps through your clothes and chills you from the inside out. I found the city a bleak place during winter, with battle-ship grey buildings and roads blending into overcast skies.
Since moving to the Cottage, I have developed a whole new appreciation for winter. The snowy plains I miss from the Midwest have been replaced with a new delight – frost. The only time I noticed frost in the city was when the pavements were slippery. Now, I wake up to meadows and forests encased in silvery lace. These wintery landscapes are breath-taking and have given winter a whole new character for me.
Knowing it is cold outdoors also makes me appreciate my home more. I see my home as refuge from the elements in winter and so it becomes a haven I can retreat to. After all, curling up in front of the fire is all the cosier when the weather outside is atrocius. While I know that “Spring-cleaning” is the usual tradition, I think I will adopt “Autumn-cleaning” in the future so my house is as inviting as possible for the colder months.
Perhaps my favourite thing about winter is the liberty it gives me in the kitchen. I have a particular fondness for rich, wholesome dishes and winter lends itself perfectly to this type of comfort-cooking. These dishes are also well suited to being cooked in large batches, which can be frozen in. As we both work full time, these homemade ready meals are ideal for freeing up our weekday evenings.
With that in mind, here are some tips for learning to love winter:
1 – Invest in some good-quality winter wear
There is nothing worse than being cold and I start to shiver as soon as the temperature dips below 21 C! Some sturdy waterproof boots and a selection of snuggly knitwear keep me toasty through the chillier months.
2 – Get outside whatever the weather
It may not always appeal at first, but I try to get out regardless of what the English weather is throwing at us. As long as I am wrapped up well, I always end up enjoying myself. Complete with a hot bath on returning home to banish any lingering chill.
3 – Stock up on fancy hot drinks
For me, drinking tea is primarily a form of temperature regulation. We have a selection of lots of different teas which is ideal for when the mercury plummets. At the moment, I am into vanilla chai tea which is so yummy I often have it for dessert! Nothing beats watching the birds in the morning while sipping on a piping-hot mug of tea. Bliss.
As much as I have enjoyed winter this year, I am noticing that the days are beginning to lengthen. In fact, it already feels like winter is retreating. The snowdrops in the forest are out in full force and the daffodils look ready to burst into flower at any moment. Roll on British Summer Time!