La Bonne Vie: January brings colder weather and optimism for future prospects

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By: Rachel Shenk

Flavor 574 photo / Rachel Shenk

It must have been the coldest day of the year. It was 1 degree when I take Stella, the golden retriever, for her walk around the block. I was wrapped from head to toe, but I still hunched up against the brisk breeze. The crunch of each footstep on the thin layer of snow rang out in the quiet morning. Though the sun was bright, it didn’t warm us. Stella lifted her paws gingerly to keep them from freezing, and then made a run for it. We jogged back to the house before the cold seeped through my layers of clothes.

“It’s January,” I kept telling myself.

Christmas flew past me this year. I look back longingly to the few days of down time and a more relaxed schedule. But when the weather map shows single digits, snow systems and wind chill factors, I know I am in the grips of January. I’ve shifted my priorities from family visits, gifts and holiday food to how much wood is left in the barrel for our wood stove, how to return to my dietary routine and how to get exercise when the cold makes me want to stay inside.

This time around, when the year turned, I did not make any resolutions. For me, each day is a work in progress and I resolve every day to look for the good and the beautiful, to take small steps to change what I can, and fully appreciate what I have been given. During these slower, grayer days, I take time just for myself. I finish the book I started a while back. I get back to my woodblock printing. I set goals for the coming year. I plan a winter party. I even start writing again.

In the food realm, I reorganize my refrigerator, go through my pantry and throw away things that haven’t been used and find new homes for rarely used tools. After the holiday extravaganzas, I pare down my menu and bring back more vegetables, grains and fruits, and go lighter on the meat. I also make soup that will last several days. Our front porch becomes a second refrigerator for leftovers.

During these darker, colder days, you can often find me at home in the late evening, sipping on a glass of wine beside the wood stove, content to be reading with a cat or dog by my side. This year, since a Christmas visit to Baltimore to see our daughter, every now and then, we’ve indulged in another drink of choice, the Moscow Mule. Though we have yet to get the hammered copper mugs they are traditionally served in, we savor the flavor just as well in our glasses. If you’re looking for a drink with a little ginger spice and citrus to warm you up on the inside on a cold snowy day, here is the recipe I have been using. Cheers to old man winter!

Moscow mule variation

Ingredients:

  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 1/2 oz. top shelf vodka
  • 1/2 cup top shelf ginger beer
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Put lime juice, fresh ginger, vodka and ginger beer in a container and stir well.
  2. Put four ice cubes in a glass. Strain the mixture, pouring over the ice.
  3. Serve with a 1/2 slice of lime.

 

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