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?