I have been reading a lot about Iceland lately, thanks to friends on Facebook posting articles and pictures and the fact that my husband is actively hunting jobs outside of the country.
Apparently, the people of Iceland are some of the happiest people in the world, despite their latitude, despite their lack of sunlight in the winter, and despite the cold and snowy days. One of the biggest reasons for their happiness, it seems, is that they know – truly and completely – how to hunker down: they are big, big fans of hot chocolate. In an attempt to move past the winter humdrums, I propose even more hunkering down.
- Read a book (or two or twenty). Make it more social by joining a book club, or read the same book as a friend and discuss. Though providing suggestions for every type of reader is challenging, I will list a few of my favorites. Non-Fiction: The End of Night by Paul Bogard is a wonderful and interesting read about our relationship with darkness and how our experiences with darkness are waning. Fiction: You think Gone Girl was good? Try Into the Woods by Tim O’Brien; it’s even better. YA: For a fun twist on the classic fairy tales Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White, check out The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.
- Have a Netflix/Amazon Prime/HBOGO marathon. If you have a twisted sense of humor, Catastrophe on Amazon Prime is one of the funniest things I have seen in decades. Snorted milk funny. Netflix’s original series The Fall is dark and disturbing, but it is incredibly well performed. Plus, the lead character, played by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame, doesn’t cow to feminine expectations. Jessica Jones, also on Netflix, has a similar tone with a supernatural theme. And for a smart, funny, and occasionally depressing program on HBOGO, check out The Newsroom, starring Jeff Daniels.
- Get into a game night routine. Or, as my husband and I do, make game night every night. There are several game stores in town to help you get out of the Mattel and Hasbro funk: Hodgins’s basement, Safari Pearl, and for a more specific war-gaming atmosphere check out Strategy and Games. Some fabulous cooperative games are Pandemic, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Forbidden Island (great for beginners to cooperative games and for families), and Forbidden Desert; an excellent 1-2 person cooperative game is Onirim. For the more competitive types try Ticket to Ride, Mysterium (both competitive and cooperative), and Settlers of Catan. Safari Pearl has a room where you can try out some of their games before buying.
- Enjoy homemade soup and bread. Winter always makes me want soup and homemade bread. Fortunately, I’ve recently discovered a wonderful soup cookbook with a variety of interesting and tasty soups, such as Southwestern Pumpkin soup and Moroccan Lentil soup: S.O.U.P.S: Seattle’s Own Undeniably Perfect Soups by Michael Congdon. My husband has taken to baking bread, so there has been a perfect confluence of events in my home. The Moscow Food Co-op also has recipes of its own available online, in Rooted, and during Tasteful Thursdays.
- Throw a food exchange party. Though a cookie exchange is a popular pre-holiday activity, it’s not necessary to limit the exchange to cookies. Try a soup exchange (are you seeing a theme here?), a casserole exchange, or a prepared crockpot freezer meal exchange. If you’ve never attended an exchange, they usually include a specific number of items (for instance, 6 quarts of soup) packaged for freezing, and recipes, with snacks and drinks provided during the exchange. An attendant arrives with 6 quarts of the same soup and leaves with 6 different quarts of soup along with a recipe for each.
However you choose to hunker down this winter, hunker down with all your might. And drink lots of hot chocolate.