As you already know by now, I am a Mediterranean girl (with a few German genes, but mostly Mediterranean). This means that until I came to the Netherlands, the worst exposure I had to actual winter was during my college years, when I studied in Xanthi, a city up North in Greece. There was cold and strong wind and some times snow, but it all lasted 3 months. Before that, it was a soft Autumn and after that a glorious Spring. Plus, I was 80% of my time locked in some design studio and only came out of it at night, so winter never really made me suffer. But Greece is much more to the south. This means that yes, it gets darker earlier during winter, but not THAT much earlier. So every year, when the time changes and it is dark by 17:00, I seem to have a hard time dealing with it. I have figured out some ways that make things better though, and I am about to share them with you.
Spices help your body temperature stay high during colder months. My Korean ex housemate also told us that spicy foods keep colds away and if you catch one, spices help get rid of it soon. So these days I have been cooking using a lot of cayenne pepper, curry powder, nutmeg and cinnamon. The cous cous in the picture turned out pretty great and I was happy that I incorporated the apple, because we find apples super-boring (sorry, apple lovers!) in this house, and whenever we buy them, they end up rotten. So now I am trying to add them in smoothies and cooked foods.
Two: Orange fruits and vegetables.
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in vitamin C. This means that they help boost your immune system, which is oh-so-important during winter months. For this soup I used the squash, one apple, two bell peppers, four carrots, a few garlic cloves, olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Boiled, blended, done!
My sin of choice is Lemon Curd. Yes, with capital L and capital C, because it is just soooo good! Google for vegan recipes of lemon curd. This one contains eggs, but as I said I am not giving any non-vegan recipes on this blog, so I won’t share it. I am sure the vegan versions are equally delicious.
If you are not a fan of Lemon Curd, eat chocolate. Eat brownies. Eat whatever it is that help you feel pampered and cared for. Just keep those foods to no more than 10% of your diet. This way you do not feel deprived, but you are not damaging your body either. Win-win! Plus, even if you get a bit carried away, during winter we are covered with tons of clothes, so who is going to notice a few extra kgs? It’s cold out there! You need the extra fat to protect you!
Four: Get a great agenda that you will love
Personally I use my agenda daily to keep track of work deadlines, if I got my vitamins, people’s birthdays, tax office deadlines, coffee dates and so on. I am totally unable to use an e-version to schedule my life. If you are as old-school as I am, then a beautiful agenda will cheer you up and help you to start looking forward to the year to come. If you are Greek or speak Greek, I really-really recommend the 2014 version of this agenda here. It is a work of art and really affordable. Plus, you are helping out young creative people. You can always make your own agenda as well, if you are the creative type! I would love to make mine, but at the moment there is just not time for that.
Five: Make a book
Today a friend of mine shared on facebook a book she made. Go have a look because it is really excellent. It will make a great gift for illustrators, architects, writers and anyone who loves to look at pretty pictures and read meaningful text really. As I was looking at Athina’s book, I noticed that she used blurb.com to make it and with a bit more searching I found out that it is very easy to create your own photo book, regular book or magazine using their tools. It is a great idea to make a photo book full with pictures of 2013 or to even gather all those poems that you have been writing since high school and give your poetry collection as a Christmas gift to friends and family. You are all the time in front of the laptop anyway, now that it is so cold outside. You might as well do something meaningful and creative!
Six: Turn inwards
I watched a youtube video the other day that had a pretty interesting message and that was that Winter is the time when nature is turning inwards, trying to find the strength for a rebirth in Spring. Therefore, starting to celebrate Christmas and New Years Eve from November, does not give us the time to reflect and contemplate what we learned the year that passed. That might all sound new-agey to you and it might be, but I feel that it resonates with me. There is nothing wrong with feeling a bit blue during Winter. It is actually natural and a great balance to all the Summer cheerfulness. The fact that you do not actually hibernate is brave enough, if you ask me! If you feel that you just want to stay inside and read a book or watch a movie while wearing your pajamas, then follow your instincts and do exactly that. Don’t let people pressure you into crazy premature celebrations.
Seven: Create a nest
No, that is not the pregnant woman in me speaking. That is just plain me. By “create a nest”, I mean create a warm and cozy space to spend the winter. What we did was start sleeping in our living room (the couch turns into a double bed) and now we have everything we need in one space: blankets, food, laptops, one another. It is definitely a very introverted space that does not leave much room for socializing (there is no couch after all. People could only seat on the dining chairs) but it is just what we need now. A nest can be different for everyone. For you it could be just wearing an over-sized cozy sweater. For someone else it could be filling the house with Christmas lights and decorations, because that is what cheers them up. The point here is to morph your space in such a way that it will give you that extra positivity and comfort boost that you need during winter months.
Eight: Escape. Run away.
Totally do that, if you can afford it. We can’t, but I am pretty sure that if we could go for a month in Australia, we would fly there tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with avoiding winter, is there? (forget all those things I said about contemplation. I only said them because I cannot avoid winter).
What are your ways of surviving those cold, dark months? Please let us all know. We will be grateful!