Marching toward spring

March comes in like a lion and does not go out like a lamb.

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March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a bear.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a tiger.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a wolverine.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a hyena, laughing fiendishly all the way.

*

But we know better.

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Tips for surviving winter

Confession: For the first month or two of winter, I revel in the coziness, the hot drinks, the layers of hoodies and afghans. And then at some point (December 26th, maybe) I switch strategies, and begin ignoring the weather out of existence… because I simply can’t hang in there that long without becoming claustrophobic.

Here’s what I do. {Which is why I’m so healthy and happy and never, ever whine about winter. As I’m sure you’ve noticed. And if you haven’t, that’s why I’m pointing it out. Never. Ever.}

  • Look for color.

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  • Grow something.

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  • Be with people. Especially little people.

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  • Drink tea.

Homemade tea from a friend? Even better.

tea

paint

  • Buy tropical scents and flavors whenever possible.

air freshener

  • Eat a different salad every day for lunch.

salad 1

Mixed greens, deli turkey, tomatoes, avocado, pecans and feta.

salad 2

Romaine, tomatoes, green peppers, shredded carrots, Parmesan, hummus and crackers.

salad 3

Greens, taco meat and beans, peppers, olives, cheddar, salsa.

salad 4

Lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, apples, oranges, craisins, hazelnuts.

I never want to forget what a rich girl I am, to eat so much freshness that’s not in season. If I don’t have a lot of variety on hand, I just cut the veggies differently–skinny strips one day and big square chunks the next. Isn’t that silly?

And finally, if other mood boosters take too much energy and work, I do just one:

  • Light an {Everything Is Going to be Alright} candle.

candle 2

It’s just a plain candle in the middle of my kitchen workspace, but it’s a special one, in a special place and time; and when it burns out I always find another to replace it. It’s a prayer, a confession, a mustard seed of faith. When I light it, I choose to believe in what’s true: Everything Is Going to be Alright.

*****

Come over for salad?

That time of year / Giveaway results

This is the time of year when I finally give the season a name: I call it This Horrible Winter That Never Ends. Then I feel badly, because it is rather terrible to look a thing in the eyes and label it something cruel.

This is the time of year when A Boatload of Snow gives way to Freezing Rain which gives way to Record Breaking Frigidity and back to A Boatload of Snow and around again. And again.

This is the time of year when the cashier at the little Mennonite shop says to me “Enjoying the nice weather?” with a perfectly straight face and I don’t know what to say. It’s fifteen degrees out there and the roads are awful, and the heavy gray clouds are pressing so over the land that I cannot tell if it is actually snowing or just suffocating us into the ground. I do not know if she is serious or not. I don’t think she has sarcasm in her. So I say, carefully (so that it could go either way), “Sure better than last weekend, with those frigid temperatures.” And she says “It’s supposed to get cold again, this weekend.”

This is the time of year when everyone who comments on the weather has this little gem to offer: “It’s supposed to get cold again, this weekend.”

WHAT DO THEY THINK IT HAS BEEN??

But I know what they mean: below zero. I’ve seen the bottom side of zero more times in a month than I ever hope to in thirty days in all my life again. And shed more tears than I can remember or count.

This is the time of year when I could eat myself into a stupor and totally not care, so I arrange a series of careful deceptions, starting around 9:00 pm. “Yes, soon I will go and make that decadent cup of hot chocolate, but first I will work on this {blog post} {pending project} {third chapter by Wendell Berry} {email response} and then after a while… Maybe I will have a bowl of chips too… soon… But first I will just finish this up…” If I manage very carefully I can, without actually saying no, trick myself into putting off food and drink until my pillow looks more appealing than anything else and I go to bed gratefully, with an empty stomach.

This is the time of year when my tiny indoor starter plants for the garden become absolutely necessary. They need to thrive. I check them anxiously several times a day to make sure they are still green, still hopeful, still looking like they don’t give a rap about the cold.

This is the time of year when I am suddenly possessed of a strong urge to clean my entire house from top to bottom. And so I make an over-ambitious plan for the month of March and get out the bucket and the rags and the strident music, and have at it.

This is the time of year when I step outside barefoot to put stuff in the trash bin, because it’s a late-winter ritual I love, that powder-soft intensely-cold melting magic beneath my bare toes. I cannot tell if in this ritual I am expressing my appreciation or my disdain for the snow. Both, I think.

This is the time of year when I rely heavily on my best coping mechanisms: Surefire Ways to Survive Any Winter. But that is for our next post.

Yep. It’s that time of year.

*****

drinking coffee (1) P.S. And speaking of decadent hot chocolate… which I do occasionally enjoy… I finally, finally got to drink from the brown mug: Alison’s generous gift to me. That’s because we have a giveaway winner, and she chose blue! I am soo happy for Rachel N… and to all the rest of you, don’t forget to check out Alison’s other pottery here, or keep her work in mind when you need a pretty gift for a friend!

Thanks to all for the most lovely hot drink ideas and recipes.

And special thanks to those of you who introduced yourselves in this giveaway—told me who you are, and in which former life I knew you, and what you did today, and who your husband was. I really loved that unexpected part of this giveaway, and of you.

Last year: a homemade Christmas

Confession: I have trouble talking publicly about Christmas until there’s snow on the ground. This is unfortunate, and unlike my smart friend Gina, who has been doing a Christmas Countdown for weeks already. But yesterday, the magic came… and oh, does it look pretty as it falls!

snow angel

As our extended family gets bigger, the Coblentz side has decided to appoint a different couple to be in charge of our giving each year: first, Dad and Mom planned the event; the next year, my oldest brother and his wife, and so on down the line of siblings. This breaks things up, adds beautiful variety, and eliminates unhappy extended discussions about when and what and how much. (Also it gives several years of cushion time before putting my 15-year-old brother Ted in charge of things, who would undoubtedly have us all out in the woods hunting venison to donate to local soup kitchens.)

One year we pooled money to help my brother and his wife fly home from far away. Once we played A Minute to Win It and said the winner would get the money pool–secretly planning to donate it to the couple who’d been through a lot that year, and give them a vacation together.

Last year, Ryan and I brainstormed a traditional gift exchange, with one stipulation.

September 21, 2013

Dear family,

Christmas is three months away! And while I’m not into singing Jingle Bells just yet, I did want to let you know what Ryan and I have in mind, so you can start brainstorming.

I guess it’s our turn to be in charge this year. We batted around several ideas (donating money to the poor in a foreign country to buy pigs or goats or something; pooling money to do a group activity together—) and finally settled on an idea we really like.

We want to do a traditional gift exchange, with the stipulation that the gifts must be original—made, designed, or modified by the giver. Don’t panic. You don’t have to turn into a “crafty” kind of person to participate; each of you is already good at making something the rest of us aren’t, so think outside of the box and be yourself. Use your imagination, but please don’t overwork, overspend, or overstress.

You may help your child as much as you want.

I made a list of ideas to get you started thinking. Before we exchange names and send the results to you, do you have anything to say? Any curses, questions, or complaints?

Waiting to hear from you,

Ryan & Shari

Two months later, excitement was running high. Gifts were being planned and produced, secreted and stashed in every dark corner. Here’s our list of suggestions.

  • Something from wood
  • Something from yarn or fabric
    • A hat/ scarf/ wrap
    • A blanket or pillow
    • A tote bag
  • Something from nature
    • A plant start
    • A set of fossils (I’m kind of joking, but there are those among us who would love it)
    • Seeds you saved or a wreath you made
  • Something personalized
    • A framed photo
    • A photo collage
    • A mug/ mouse pad/ puzzle/ throw with a personal picture or name on it
  • Something to eat
    • A pie/ a cheesecake/ a dozen cookies
    • A jar mix (great ideas here)
    • Anything you grew or preserved
  • Original artwork or photography
  • A personal audio or video recording
  • A certificate
    • For something to do together
    • For a service you will perform
    • For a gift you will give three times next year (or twelve times, or whatever)
  • A book
    • An online photo book / memory book
    • A homemade book, made by slipping photos of your own into an album or CD case [see tutorial here]. You could make a memory book, an advice book, a grandma’s-brag-book, or a recipe book!
  • Homemade consumables
    • A personal care item like soap or body scrub—many easy recipes online
    • A set of homemade cleaning supplies
  • A handmade toy or game
    • Puppets, play-doh, blocks, doll, sock monkey
    • A piñata
    • A chess set/ checkerboard/ any other game you create

{Click here for the Printable Version–Ideas for Handmade Gifts}

*****

Do you give handmade gifts at Christmas? How do you coordinate your extended-family holidays? I’d love to hear your ideas! Next time I post, I’ll share some specific gifts we made, with pictures.

Capture

Confession: I tried capturing a falling leaf on camera, in this glorious sun-drenched weather.

It was

harder

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than

I thought.

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But I found some beautiful branches…

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So many causes for happiness, these fall days. Line-dried sheets, the last of the season. Newly-minted raised beds in the garden–who knew that shoveling goat poop could make me so happy? Healthy and radiant children, four or five or eight or three of them. Words of blessing. Friendship. Maple-bacon frosted cupcakes. Sometimes life slips by too quickly for me to look at, to express, to capture.

Like a falling leaf.