Comforts Against Cabin Fever

Evening Warm-up; photo by owlpacino from flickr creative commons

Evening Warm-up; photo by owlpacino from flickr creative commons

January has been a good month and I’ve much to appreciate. One thing that I’m longing for now is a closer connection with nature. It’s been unusually cold for longer stretches of time, the sidewalks have been too icy for me, flu has been rampant and I didn’t have to go out so I stayed in with my well-planned stash of necessities. Even opening the windows a crack for a few minutes every few days has helped but I’m really looking forward to the first walk along the river and the first spring flower I notice.

Hydration is important in the winter as well and I believe I’ll feel better with drinking less coffee and more water this week. If it’s warm drinks that comfort, some honey and cinnamon in water is great. I’ve taken the time to make some this past weekend as well as hot chocolate made with coconut milk and good quality cocoa. Why would I think I’m too busy to stand there and stir the chocolate in for a moment? Actually that’s just an habitual, unconscious thought and something that I’ve picked up from the culture around me that considers being crazy-busy as an honorable thing.

It’s tempting to stay up late and stare at something on the flickering screen of laptop–Pinterest and hulu–but I’m being mindful of the healing benefits of being in bed by 10:00. Stretching too, especially when I’ve been sitting in the recliner for about an hour, makes a difference in how I feel.

Last week I wrote about my enjoyment of Downton Abbey. I’m also reading a book by Charles Finch called A Death in the Small Hours. I quite enjoy reading novels set in Victorian times and I’ve read all his previous work. It doesn’t seem to be as easy to sit down and focus on a book as it used to be but winter is an excellent time to coax myself into it.

I guess what I’m going for is to make the most of the opportunities I have in this season so that I’ll be ready for spring in reasonably good shape while giving myself some comfort and stimulation now instead of feeling deprived and focusing on what I can’t do.

Reading Cookbooks; Books and Food

Long before there were foodie blogs with gorgeous photos, there were cookbooks with gorgeous photos. Most of the recipes, I’d never make. Taking a heavy, hardback cookbook and looking at the photos and reading some of the information has always been a pleasurable activity for me. One of my favorites is A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds–Asian cooking–and while it’s healthy and delicious looking, it’s beyond my skill and patience level.

Another is Lemongrass and Lime, which is about New Vietnamese cooking. Now that my interest and skill is upleveled, I may actually experiment with some of the recipes this year. About fifteen years ago, I worked with some Vietnamese women (off the boat) and had several occasions to eat meals they prepared. They were delicious but the aroma of the food was strange to me. I’ve yet to eat in a Vietnamese restaurant and am unaware of how that experience would be regarding aroma.

Once I bravely roasted a duck for my version of celebrating Chinese New Year (on a whim) and eventually found myself with at least three inches of melted fat in the roasting pan. The pan was so heavy that I had to get a neighbor to lift it out of the oven for me. I’ve blocked out whatever I went through to get it cleaned up–I remember the duck was greasy too–and I remember vowing that I’d never do it again. Actually, it took quite a bit to get me to try the experiment because I had a pet duck as a child. His name was Duckess. (a child, remember).

With heavy metal poisoning, my kidneys could be destroyed were I to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle but that’s another blog post.

In novels, I love reading about food. The description of the “white meal” in Charles Finch’s latest novel is magical. The sandwiches that the character Spenser makes in Robert B. Parker’s novels are inspiring and I’d often have to stop reading and get snacks.

Kinsey Milhone, Sue Grafton’s character eats weird snacks that are actually delicious and easy to make and I’d have fun with that when reading her series. They seem to have involved peanut butter, cream cheese, green onions and pickles–not all together, but simple ingredients like that.

Right now I’m reading The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg. There was a mention of eating crackers with cheese, horseradish mustard and red onion. That sounds like something I’d love to try and will get the stuff next time I go grocery shopping. Which may wait until tomorrow. It’s very sunny now which is making the little basil seedlings on the windowsill happy but it’s only 25 degrees. When I got up it was 14, which is a good reason to procrastinate if one can.

Brit Flicks and Fiction

Still awkwardly planning my next year’s goals, I appreciate the moments when I relax and read the new Charles Finch book, “A Stranger in Mayfair”. I’m wanting it to last. The Victorian protagonist recently attended a speech given by Queen Victoria and I was delighted that he’s in the process of reading Mrs. Gaskell’s “Cranford”.
My local library has the dvd production of “Cranford” which I very much enjoyed watching this summer. When you want to see something weirdly amusing, search YouTube for when the cat ate the lace.
My favorite film series of Elizabeth Gaskell’s work is “North and South” with the wonderful and talented Richard Armitage. I am a fan, something I rarely am of an actor.
Recently I received and watched the third and final season of “Clatterford”. In the UK it was called “Jam and Jerusalem.”
It’s by the same folks who did “Absolutley Fabulous” which I disliked.
Dawn French is amazing in it and it would be so lovely to visit with the Women’s Guild of Clatterford. The scenery is lovely, of course; it makes me laugh and sometimes tear up and the people look real. They live in interesting-looking homes, not all the glass and steel and neutral tones of so many US shows. There aren’t the skinny, air-brushed, slick, plastic looking actors either. It’s a little world that’s both cozy and refreshing to enter into for awhile.
There’s something about the English that helps me feel everything is all right.

Christmas

It’s a holiday that my family of origin celebrated in a very modest way. When I left my childhood home, I didn’t bother much with it as far as decorating and entertaining goes. There are many different  nuances of the traditions and now so many things changing for people rapidly.

I guess it’s simple for us to just continue on without questioning the way we celebrate unless circumstances or strong awareness impels us to make changes. After reading some blog posts by people I admire about the little traditions in their homes, I’m considering crafting my own to make the holidays more meaningful for me.

The people I used to celebrate with are all gone now. These days I’m fine with going along with whatever the people I’m with do to celebrate the holidays.
When people are alone, it makes a difference whether or not they offer a certain quality of life to themselves. It doesn’t have to be more complicated or elaborate or expensive or more work. If you’re somewhat lacking in imagination (like me) you can experiment in a thoughtful way and allow it to evolve.

This afternoon I was alone and so I got out my paints and unfinished canvas panel and painted a bit. The actual painting part took about twenty minutes and the gathering of stuff and cleaning up took longer. The cap broke on my brilliant blue shade and I taped it back together. There are lots of reasons I could find to give up beginning art again but this will be a year when many of my excuses of the past won’t really apply. The only thing stopping me would be inner resistance. It was awkward but I feel a bit pleased with my effort this afternoon and intend to kind of make a habit of doing some sort of art often. Like I’ve been doing with my writing.

One of my received gift books is the fourth novel by Charles Finch called “A Stranger in Mayfair.” I really enjoyed the first three, detective novels set in the Victorian era, and this one is pleasant to read as well.  It’s a book I’m wanting to last a bit longer than the pace I’m going through it.