6 Things I Learned This Winter

I'm joining Emily P. Freeman in reflecting on what I've learned in the past season before diving into the next. From the useful little tidbits that I've found helpful, to the serious and significant, here are six things I've learned this winter.

 Photo:  童 彤

Photo: 童 彤

1. A big mug of chamomile tea can be just as satisfying as a glass of wine at 5 p.m.

In an effort to be healthier (and lose some stubborn pounds) I started skipping my usual weeknight glass of wine. And what I discovered really surprised me: sitting down with a mug of hot chamomile tea felt just as relaxing (maybe more so) than sipping wine. I realized it's really the act of sitting down and giving myself a chance to breathe that relaxes me more than the wine itself. Don't get me wrong, I still love savoring a glass of wine on the weekends, but during the weeknight bustle, it's nice to know that it doesn't need to be intertwined with my "unwinding" ritual.

2. My local (book) library has a seed library.

It's called the Green Thumbs, Green Minds Seed Library, and you can actually check out seeds to plant in your garden. And while, no, of course you won't be returning the same seeds, they do encourage you (and teach you how) to save seeds from your own garden and bring them back to the seed library. I haven't used it yet, but I'll definitely keep it in mind when we start planting our spring garden.

3. My kid will eat all manner of raw, crunchy veggies as a TV snack.

Carrots, cucumbers, fresh peas: all down the hatch, and sometimes I need to refill the plate. He's not super inclined to mow them down in quite such an enthusiastic way at the dining table, but while semi-distracted by a favorite show, they're gone in a flash.

4. The best tasting carrots are 'Mokum' carrots — but you might have to grow your own.

We found the most delightful carrots at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market: they are pale orange, finger-thin, and have an incredibly delicate, crisp crunch and sweet flavor. They're the sort of veggie that makes you realize (after months of sad, too-hard and starchy carrots), oh, so that's what a carrot is supposed to taste like! Sadly, since they don't travel well, you're not likely to find them outside of a good farmer's market — even in the bountiful SF Ferry Building market, we can't always find them.

So I took it upon myself to a) find out what these amazing carrots are called, and b) order seeds so we can grow our own. I found them stocked at both Fedco Seeds (that's where I got ours) and at Johnny's. I can't wait to get them in the ground! (And p.s., if you're a newbie gardener, carrots are a great place to start. They germinate quickly, and they're a crowd pleaser with kids.)

5. It doesn't take much to make Valentine's Day special for kids (and it means a LOT).

The background: When I was a kid, my grandpa would sneak into our kitchen early on Valentine's Day morning and put flowers, cards, and raspberry pastries on the counter for me and my mom — so I've always had a thing for making Valentine's Day more about love and kindness than strictly romance.

This year: The night before Valentine's Day, I sprinkled hearts leftover from a craft project down the center of the breakfast table, and put a card at my son's place. In the morning, I added whipped cream to our usual smoothies. The whole thing took all of two minutes of extra time, and my son was absolutely delighted. And I had a fun time, too :-)

6. Fascia connects your entire body, and it might be making you miserable.

I've learned a lot more than I ever thought I would (or frankly, cared to) because of some random aches and pains I'd been having, on and off, for months — first in my feet, then my shoulders, and finally my hip. After some digging, I've discovered the culprit: fascia. I already knew that sore, overworked fascia were to blame for the pain in my feet (hello plantar fasciitis). What I learned is that our fascia actually weaves throughout the entire body, supporting muscles, bones, and even organs. And when the fascia in one area of the body starts complaining, the pain can shift to other areas. 

Since learning this, I've added tennis ball stretches to my daily routine (with great success), and I'm hoping to pick up a foam roller and try that soon, too.

Now I'm curious: What have you learned this winter? 

What's saving my life right now

Joining Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy to share the big and little things that are saving my life right now. Feel free to share your own list of lifesavers in the Comments! 

 Photo:  Brigitte Tohm

1. Tulips.

I'll take tulips over roses, any day. I love that this time of year Trader Joe's tends to keep big bundles of tulips in stock, so I can indulge in my love of tulips without breaking the bank. A pitcher bursting with yellow tulips on the kitchen table is happiness incarnate. While they're around, I try to pick up a bundle every weekend when we do our shopping.

2. Podcasts.

I just got hooked on podcasts within the last year (shocking, I know!), but now I don't know how I lived without them. My go-to favorites are The Simple Show, hosted by Tsh Oxenreider, and What Should I Read Next, hosted by Anne Bogel. There are also some really great podcasts out there for kids. A fun sometimes-ritual my son and I do together is put on a podcast (we especially like Circle Round), get out paper, colored pencils, and markers, and make some art together as we listen.

3. Morning walks.

My morning walks by the water are like a reset button for my soul. I often listen to inspiring podcasts while I walk, but if I'm feeling really overwhelmed, I just walk in the silence. Also, since I spend much of my day staring at the screen of my laptop, gazing out across the bay is a very necessary break for my eyes. When about an hour is up, I take a detour past my favorite coffee shop to grab a mug of coffee on the way home. 

4. Good books.

As a supply side reader, I can't fall asleep without reading, so even when I'm in a bit of a reading slump, I still read at least one or two books each month. But lately? I can't get enough. My TBR is a mile long, and I fully (happily) blame the What Should I Read Next podcast (see #2 above) and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. I joined Anne Bogel's online book club community the last time it opened for new members, and I can't say enough good things about it. In December we read Peace Like a River and The Snow Child, and I still haven't stopped thinking about them. Good books are such a lifesaver always, but especially in winter when the skies are gray and all you want to do is curl up with a huge mug of hot tea.

5. The right vacuum attachment.

File this under boring but important, hah! We've had the same Miele vacuum for over 10 years, and it's still going strong. But until two years ago, we had never lived in a house with carpeting...so we had never bothered purchasing the (admittedly expensive) special vacuum attachment for carpeted floors. That's two years we have been struggling with the wrong attachment, forcing it over the carpeting like we're in some twisted homemaker version of CrossFit. The first time we tried the new attachment, I swear I heard angels sing.

What's saving my life right now | lauragaskill.com

6. My bullet journal.

I finally treated myself to a Leuchtturm bullet journal for the new year, and I've been taking it with me everywhere. I still keep a separate journal for morning pages, and I honestly wasn't sure if keeping a bullet journal would be all it's cracked up to be. But I've found that it's immensely helpful in keeping track of ongoing lists, especially: my TBR (to be read), reading log, seasonal meal ideas, book notes, and personal goals.

7. Book darts.

I've recently discovered the joy and usefulness of these little bookish accessories, and I now I find myself reaching for them all the time. They are ideal for keeping track of favorite quotes and passages, bookmarking frequently used pages in my bullet journal, and (temporarily) marking passages in library books. Next Christmas everyone's getting a tin in their stocking!

8. Our new doormat.

It's this crazy rainbow stripe version from Chilewich, and it makes me far happier every time I see it than I think it should. I probably would have gone for a neutral palette, but my seven year old son was with me, and he was strongly in favor of rainbow! And I'm so glad we went with it. 


9. Cat wipes.

Our cat Sushi has gotten a little bigger since I snapped the photo above, and he's made a bit of a reputation for himself as a troublemaker. He eats books! He literally ate my son's homework paper. (His teacher didn't believe him.) He's pretty much a homebody, but he does like to go out exploring first thing in the morning. Let's just say, we're not sure where he goes sometimes, but judging by the way he smells when he returns, I can say for sure: we don't want to know. 

I had no idea cat wipes were a thing, but we found these wipes at Petco, and they work like a charm: each one is like a damp towelette, and you just sort of pet (or vigorously scrub, depending on the stink factor) your cat's fur all over. It takes like 30 seconds, and our cat actually loves getting groomed with them. And afterward? No stink.



5 Early December Favorites

It's been crisp and chilly here lately, a welcome change from the unseasonably warm weather we had this fall. The leaves are finally in full color, and the short days mean more time to cuddle up inside and read...preferably with a strong cup of tea and a pair of cozy slippers. Which brings me to my first favorite...

Glerups cozy Danish slippers
Garnet Hill flannel sheets

1. Glerups danish wool slippers

I recently treated myself to a pair of Glerups, which are super-cozy Danish wool slippers. I am in love! The wool is so thick and soft and comfortable (and WARM, of course), and the soles are leather, which means if you have to run out to get the mail, they won't be ruined. I picked the no-back type, but if I was still in New England I would be tempted to get the boots ... they look so very toasty. These would make such a lovely gift, and they come in child (and baby) sizes, too.

2. garnet hill hemstitched Flannel sheets

You know that feeling of sliding into freezing cold sheets? That doesn't really happen with flannel sheets, which is why I LOVE putting flannel sheets on the beds in winter. And the set of hemstitched flannel sheets I got during a recent sale at Garnet Hill (psst: looks like they're still on sale) are the softest we've had yet. 

Early December Favorites.JPG

3. Pride and Prejudice (and P&P related fiction)

I recently read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Why it took this many years for me to get to it, I have no idea. But I loved it, and have plans to dive deep into Austen this winter. But before moving on, I decided to take a detour downstairs, with Longbourn by Jo Baker. I'm a little over halfway through, and I'm glad I didn't look up the reviews before beginning, because there's a lot of hate of this novel out there! I can see where the criticism is coming from, but I'm enjoying it (so far) nonetheless. I've also read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, which is fantastic if you like quirky heroines and traveling into books (and through space-time).

4.Danish butter cookies from trader Joe's

These little cookies have been disappearing rapidly from my house, since all three of us are fans. What made me pick them up in the first place was actually the adorable nordic tin: I plan on reusing it to hold my own cookies when we start baking over the Christmas holiday.

5. Paperwhites (...also from trader Joe's!)

I usually force a bunch of bulbs at this time of year, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet - so I was excited to find a paperwhite bulb in a lovely, simple little glass forcing vase while standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe's. It's cheering up my desk as I type this, and I plan to keep the little vase to force bulbs next year.

12 Days of Holiday Hygge

I'd love to hear what's making you happy this month! And if you're looking for a fun little project, consider joining in on 12 Days of Holiday Hygge: we've just started today. You can sign up for the emails right here, or join us on Instagram using the hashtag #12daysofholidayhygge.

xo Laura