Keeping the winter at bay
It can be difficult to feel one’s enthusiasms in the middle of a gray, rainy January. Rain! It should be snow. The end of winter as we knew it in central New York—of snow, cold, ice, sledding, tumbling from a sauna into the snow, naked cross-country skiing, pond skating, shoveling, snow days, snow forts—breaks my heart. I am a creature made for snow and cold, for exuberant bursts into those elements and then a return to cozy hibernation, warm soup and a fire in the hearth. My bumper-sticker slogan to stop the madness of fossil fuels would say, “Save the Winters.” (Oh look. Someone has already thought of that. I know nothing about this organization or how effective it is—no updates yet this year?—but I like the idea, reaching out to outdoor enthusiasts to save the outdoors they love.)
Things I’m doing to try to keep my spirits up: fish oil, vitamin D, MCT oil, daily exercise, a lot of sleep. To the person in my Facebook feed lounging in a yellow bikini in Quintana Roo, I salute you!
But there are things I’m feeling enthusiastic about! Always!
Endpapers. I am thrilled—thrilled—about the publication of Endpapers, a queer literary mystery set in early-aughts NYC. The author, Jennifer Savran Kelly, is a good friend and one of the most interesting creative people I know: actor, writer, bookbinder, editor. Their book is listed on most-anticipated lists for 2023 at Lit Hub, Buzzfeed, and Electric Lit. Give me all the hype! Pre-order from your local indy bookstore. (Locals to Ithaca: There is a book launch party at The Cherry Art Space on Tuesday, February 7, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Join me!)
My book group, the Firedancers. Last fall, one of my friends decided she was sick of not seeing her friends more regularly, so she started a book group. We choose the books together, varying genres; we meet monthly; we rotate hosting and providing dinner. We are all moms, circling age 50, circling menopause, with kids in middle and high school; our kids are friends. So far we have read The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings, The Last Castle by Denise Kiernen, and The Light We Bring by Michelle Obama. Next up, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Next up after that, Endpapers by Jennifer Savran Kelly (release date February 7), with a visit to our book group by the author! Book group has been doing me a world of good. We’re even planning a boot-camp vacation together à la Michelle Obama for the fall! (MB calls her deeply cultivated circle of close women friends her “kitchen table.”)
New pencils. The winter solstice fairy brought me new pencils. Musgrave Tennessee Red cedar pencils, made of Eastern red cedar, smell like your childhood, or your parents’ childhood. (Musgrave, an American pencil company, has been manufacturing since 1916, and their pencils were made from Eastern red cedar—old fence posts!—until the early 1970s. They’ve discovered a new supply of cedar slats to turn into pencils.) Packaged in a cherry-red matchbook, the pencils are natural, showing the whorls in the beautiful wood, coated in a matte gloss. Sharply hexagonal, with a medium-soft graphite, they have a red imprint, gold-colored ferrule, and white eraser. Beautiful, fragrant, and affordable at $13/dozen.
Chopin (but also Bach). Back in December, I participated in my first piano recital in 36 years. I’ve just had the nerve to listen to the recording, and I think I gave a respectable I’ve-been-working-hard-for-12-weeks-but-before-that-not-for-36-years performance of Bach’s Prelude in C minor. I love the precision and sparkling beauty of Bach; the pieces are so good for reminding my hands how to work independently of each other, which I think is such an odd thing we can do. But Chopin’s Waltz in A minor, which I’ve just started to learn, appeals to the mitteleuropean Romantic in me, which I think is no small part of my personality.
Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold black tea. It is a sad thing, but my nervous system is asking me to cut way back on my coffee consumption. I put out the call on my Facebook page and got a lot of recommendations, which will take me some time to get through. I tagged Rebecca Altman in the post, not only because she is Scottish, but because her taste is inerrant. Inerrant, I tell you. Except when it comes to movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, but that topic is not open for discussion. Rebecca recommended this tea, with very specific instructions for how to prepare it:
1 mug (about 12 oz, a couple of oz on either side won't matter but don't go too much bigger or smaller).
Put teabag in bottom of mug. Pour BOILING (must be boiling) water over top. Agitate with teaspoon. Steep for 4 minutes, agitating occasionally.
Add a little sugar or honey (about 1/2 teaspoon) if you like sweet.
Add a splodge of milk. If not into dairy then oatmilk has best flavour and consistency for tea, especially Oatly full fat.
Tea can be anything from the colour of pale caramel to terracotta. That's a personal preference thing. Try somewhere in the middle first-- like the same tonality as kraft paper.
I’m enjoying kraft-paper-colored tea very much. My Wegman’s carries this in the British foods aisle, which is a good thing since I canceled Prime.
CARs. Not automobiles. Controlled articulated (joint) rotations. CARs constitute a daily routine of moving each joint two to three times through its full range of motion. Regular (daily!) practice allows us to maintain healthy joint function and heal wonky joints. CARs improve athletic and day-to-day function, increase the resiliency of our joints, and help keep aches and pains at bay. It turns out that our bodies’ biomechanical alignment and fluid functioning of the joints make all the difference in building and maintaining pain-free mobility as we age (and avoiding joint replacement). CARs also contribute to vascular health, because the more parts of our body we move—especially those parts that we may not much think about, like our big toes—the more resilient our vascular system is. I learned about CARs from Petra Fisher, and you can, too. Weak ankles, bunions, stiff shoulders, achy neck, cranky hips? Try CARs. (Christina Mead, if you’re reading, this is what I wanted to talk with you about.)
Canceling things. In a fit of new-year economic austerity, my household is canceling services and subscriptions. Prime, HBO, even Netflix—gone. Prime subscribe-and-save, so helpful during the first years of the pandemic—gone; we’re stocked up on stain remover, and Tom’s has discontinued David’s favorite toothpaste, so he’s hoarding his last, subscribe-and-save tubes. Once the football season is over, we’ll cancel cable until August. (My child’s passion for football is . . . extraordinary.) People magazine? Gone. I can’t remember what else—just that David has been regularly calling out, “Can I cancel this?” And I reply, “Yes! Cancel it!”
This sweet January corner of my home.
Even if you’re not someplace snowy or sunny, I hope you have something this January that brings you deep satisfaction.