Monday, January 16, 2017

Leaning Into Winter

It's been a cold winter here in Minnesota. The other day Trixie and I were on our way to pick Johnny up from school and I heard on the radio that it was zero degrees outside. Zero, as in nothing. And my first thought was "at least it's not in the negatives."

Sub-zero, unfortunately, is pretty common for this part of the world during this time of the year. You can either fight, or work with it. I've decided to work with it. I'm taking the lemons and making some frozen lemonade. I'm taking these frigid temperatures as a sign that we are supposed to stay home, hunker down, and enjoy each other's company. Make hot chocolate, or maybe something stronger. Read good books under thick throw blankets. Shuffle around in slippers. Knit. Winter is such a great time for knitting. 

It's taken me 30 years of living in Minnesota, but I'm finally learning how to survive these cold dark months. 

First and foremost, you've gotta get the right gear. For me the big three are wool socks, wool sweaters, and down jackets. 

I had spent the majority of my adult life wearing really cute pea coats and freezing my tail off. Then a few years ago I got a down jacket for Christmas, a knee length down jacket with a hood and fur trim. It's long enough that I sit on in when I'm in the car. I zip it all the way up to trap my body heat in. I put on my fur trimmed hood, often over another hat. The finishing touch is a pair of homemade wool mittens and I can go outside in sub-zero temperatures and not be miserable. I can't believe I ever survived without this jacket! 

Now that I've gotten Trixie a down snowsuit (so much easier than her coat was for bundling up and loading into the car seat) we've got the whole family outfitted in down. 

Wool sweaters get a bad rap for being itchy, and some of them really are. So you need to be careful about what kind of a wool sweater you buy. If the tag of your sweater just says "wool" it's probably going to be itchy. The key word when it comes to wool is merino. Example: this one from the GAP that I've been wearing over and over this winter. Merino wool is soft and, in my opinion, not itchy at all. I even put it on my babies' skin. 

Wool can also be intimidating because of special washing instructions and the possibility of shrinking. Most wool sweaters out there can be machine-washed on cold/gentle, and then laid flat to dry. I have a couple of hand-wash-only wool sweaters, which can be a little time consuming to deal with.  But the great thing about wool is that it actually doesn't need to be washed that often. Wool is naturally anti-microbial. So a 100% wool sweater won't get stinky as quickly as a cotton or acrylic sweater might. I go quite a while between washes for my wool, unless someone has pooped or vomited on me.  

One of the keys to staying warm is to keep your feet warm. Enter wool socks. I have six pairs of wool socks, and they are the only socks I wear. Remember how I said wool doesn't get stinky as quickly as other materials? Right. So, I wear my wool socks two days in a row, thus making them last between laundry days (yeah, I'm not great about doing laundry). When I was a kid my mom would get us socks for Christmas and I would be really disappointed. Not anymore. This year my mom got me a pair of SmartWools for Christmas and I literally squealed for joy. I, and my feet, will always be happy with the gift of wool socks. 

Other good options for wool socks include these and these. 

Other winter must-haves include fleece lined leggings and blanket scarves

And this cocoa recipe

Now that we've covered the gear, we can talk about what to do while wearing the gear. We try to keep our outdoor goals realistic. Our kids are still pretty little and don't last long outside in the cold. Let's be honest here, neither do I. We'll do a quick walk to our park, or a few times down the sledding hill by grandma and grandpa's house, but that's about it. Going to the conservatory is one of my favorite things to do during the winter. It's like a mini vacation to a warm tropical place. 

But sometimes it's so cold that I don't even want to take my kids out to the car. My rule is, when it hurts your face to go outside, then stay inside!  Winter can be a great time to take care of some indoor projects. We bake things, we organize closets, we read more, we catch up on our favorite TV shows, and I do as much knitting as I can get my hands on. It could seem isolating to be stuck at home because of the cold, but I actually enjoy the feeling of having no obligations or demands outside of my home and family. 

But what about being stuck inside with kids? 

There are even fun inside things to do with kids. Alex made luminaries for our New Years Eve party this year and Johnny had a lot of fun helping him. Johnny is old enough to enjoy helping with baking projects. Trixie enjoys taking all the Tupperware out of the cupboard, and sometimes she enjoys putting it back in. They like to sit and color at the white board easel together, play with play dough, or run around the circle created by our lower level floor plan, trailing home-made streamer wands behind them. 

Oh, you're interested in the homemade streamer wands? Here's a tutorial for you:

Take some streamers, and tape them to a straw. Voila! 

Ok, so maybe there's not a ton of fun indoor stuff to do with kids. But when forced to be creative we always figure something out. We're usually so busy and constantly on the go, so sometimes it feels good to get snowed in and have some family time. 

What kinds of things do you like to do during the cold dark months? And if you live in a warm climate, are you taking house guests?

disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate, meaning if you follow a link and make a purchase I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. 


  1. Ever year I keep telling myself I'm going to buy one of those long, fur-trimmed jackets. Well this year I have too, because I wore one of my teens one Sunday at Youth Group and I'm totally sold now! lol :)

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