How to survive winter (part 2:stay warm)

Staying warm seems almost too basic to mention. But when our furnace broke last week it became clear how essential it is to well being in winter. When you are cold you slip into animal survival mode. It's hard to relax, get good rest or do the important work. Getting warm is often as easy as pushing a button on your thermostat. But when it isn't, here's an illustrated guide to staying warm.


  1. wear a hat (and a scarf or slippers or leg warmers)
  2. snuggle under blankets (bonus heat if you can get a child or pet to cuddle with you) 
  3. borrow a space heater
  4. do jumping jacks, dance around or jog in place
  5. drink warm beverages 
  6. knit or wear something knit (wool layers are your friend)
  7. build a fire (extra warming if you chop the wood)
  8. get in warm water (shower, bath, swimming pool or hot tub)
  9. eat or drink warming spices (peppers, ginger and cinnamon)
  10. find the sun (if not out the window in a movie, book or music)

I am so grateful for a solid home to keep me dry and safe, even if it got a bit chilly. And I am beyond grateful to my brother who helped us finance a new furnace. 



How to survive winter (part 1: eat soup and try something new)

I'm having a hard winter. The details aren't really that important if you don't know me and my family. And if you do know us, then you know. Or can ask. It's not deep and dark, just sort of midlife stuff.

But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person struggling. Winter is pretty famous for being hard. So I thought I would give myself some advise and share it with the interwebs. I hope you find it useful.

one of my first gouache studies, inspired by a tiny picture in Saveur magazine of a lovely lady making soup outside.

one of my first gouache studies, inspired by a tiny picture in Saveur magazine of a lovely lady making soup outside.

Eat soup. 

In the winter, I make a big pot of soup once a week and then eat it for lunch. I start with onions and a little stew meat and some dried beans, whatever vegetables need to be eaten. I could toss in a little leftover pizza sauce or drippings. I might bulk it up with leftover grains like rice and quinoa. It is always a little different but invariably the last bowl that has sat in the fridge all week tastes the best. Economical, nutritious and comforting.

The more I have routines that are nurturing, the better I do. I eat the same thing for breakfast, I wear a variation on the same outfit most days. We have a finite number of decisions we are capable of making in a day. Especially when I'm feeling low, I don't want to waste my willpower and discernment on toast and cardigans.  So with my soup plan, I only have to think about it once a week and then every other day I just have to warm it up. Somedays it's just hard to want to eat or to make the decision, let alone a nutritious decision. It's good to set yourself up for health, to take care of yourself. 

Try something new.

I'm always reading books and listening to podcasts about how to live a good life and kick butt at work. But I don't take notes. So I have nothing specific to quote here, no study to cite. But trust me, your brain likes to learn and be challenged. Your spirit wants to have reasonable struggle and growth. You crave meaningful novelty. So try something new. It can be as simple as using a new machine at the gym or ordering a different cocktail at your usual bar. Or as bold as a whole new hobby, habit, or hairstyle.

I paint with acrylics and use watercolors in my journal. I've been curious about gouache for a long time, but felt too intimidated to actually buy some. Luckily I received a set for Christmas and permission to be a beginner, to mess around. It's hard to pick up a new medium or technique that you won't be good at right away. Learning is humbling. When time or money are tight, the tendency is to just do the things I know I can do well quickly and consistently. 

But I've committed to myself to mess around with this new style of paint every day. I'm already figuring some things out just by pushing the colors around. And then my curiosity perked up and I looked at a few how to videos on You Tube. I'm thinking about color and looking at art with fresh eyes. I look forward to the part of the day when I play with gouache.

And in the darkness of winter, looking forward to something everyday is essential.

If you want to try something new like learning to sew with the reverse applique technique, I have a couple workshops January 20 and Feb 17 at the Ragfinery. Click here for the details.



fox and turtle, the hustle and the quiet

This week my boy is back at school and I'm back in my studio. I felt called to start the year with some stitched drawings instead of restocking hats. 

The turtle and the fox are pretty good representations of how I am feeling this winter.

I desire to move slowly through the dream time of winter. To let the transformations subtly wash over me as I float in the depths. I want long walks and journal musings, stacks of books and yarn around me as I gently let the future whisper it's plans for me. The turtle likes poetry and movies and podcasts about god, cups of tea and deep piles of blankets.

The other call is to become fierce and nimble hunter providing for my family in the barren beauty of winter. Tapping into creative energy, quiet and then pouncing. Like a fox listening for vole footsteps under the snow then diving into the powder to attack. This part of me is exercising and meditating and making lists, looking at finances and calendars with big cups of coffee and getting out the paints to make something new. Slightly impatient with the unfolding mystery, she is about action, even if the action is a calculated stillness.

Yes, I can tell we are in the heart of winter when I start writing about the animal metaphors.

What animals are helping you tell your stories right now?

You can see these stitched paintings and more in my studio during the Art Walk this Friday Jan 8, 6-10 pm. make.shift art gallery, 306 Flora, downtown Bellingham.