Thursday Miscellany: Beating The Winter Blahs

Style blogger Susan B. of une femme d'un certain age wearing Chanel Longwear Nail Polish in "Gitane" and a Charlotte Chesnais ring.

Something Warm…

I love my espresso, but during the colder months I really enjoy sipping (and wrapping my cold fingers around) a cup of good, hot coffee. I’ve gone back to using a French press in the mornings, and have invested in a double-walled version (similar) to keep the coffee warmer longer.

My current bean of choice is Blue Bottle Bella Donavan. This one is just so consistently good.

Something Red…

Red is enlivening and energizing. Especially a bright, happy red. Aside from a scarf or two, I don’t really have any red in my wardrobe, so periodically indulge in a manicure with a bright polish. One of my favorites, which I’m wearing above, is Chanel Longwear polish in “Gitane.” It really holds up well, especially when I top with the Chanel Gel Coat. (Essie’s version is also good, and a bit more budget-friendly.)

Something To Read…

Book cover: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields.

My Pilates teacher recently passed along this book which she’d just finished and said she enjoyed very much. When I’m done, I’ll pass it along too. I just finished The Secret Lives Of Color which was fascinating. I’ll be passing that one to a friend who is a decorator.

There was a big flap recently about Marie Kondo’s suggestion to clear book clutter. Some were aghast that anyone could suggest getting rid of books. As with any advice, we’re all free to take it or leave it. I’ve been meaning to clear out my book collection for a while. Some I re-read periodically and will keep. But we have collected a lot over the years that neither of us is going to read again, and are just taking up space. My feeling has always been that if you’re finished with something, release it and let someone else enjoy it.

Something Tasty…

Beyond Meat Beyond Burgers meatless burgers. These are YUM!

Le Monsieur’s uncle introduced us to these, and they are fabulous!! Meat-free, but have the taste and “mouth feel” of a real burger. Moist, too. They’re not inexpensive, but are a nice treat if you’re trying to cut back on meat consumption. If you cook on the grill, they do tend to stick, so be sure to use a non-stick spray or a swipe of cooking oil first. You’ll find them in the freezer section.

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How are you beating the winter “blahs?” Any good books to share?

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  1. I like the idea of letting go of possessions, otherwise known as decluttering. My husband an I are downsizing and we are in the process of handling on books, crystal, antique dishes and art. I always believed that art imade an inviting home.i live in a community with a large fire in 2017, and many people I know lost everything. My home was just spared, the fire came within a foot of the house, burned the yard.Today I am hosting a giveaway of art and books that just won’t fit in our new space. Have invited survivors to come and choose things the woul like. I was so afraid that no one would come or want anything. Yesterday several early birds came and they love my things and took some home. It s a wonderful way o find joy in decluttering. Sure makes the winner blahs disappear. They are o happy with their new things,can’t wait fo the main event today.

  2. I totally agree with you about the books. Some I underline and circle and make notes in and re-read over and over and I want to have them on my shelf like a security blanket. I also like to have them to hand so I can boss my friends into reading them! Others, i’m very happy to pass on and let go. They were enjoyable, but perhaps not instructional or inspirational.

    I know you love coffee like I love coffee, and books like I love books, so I’m going to recommend The Monk of Mokha to you, by Dave Eggers.

    Susan, can I just say how much I adore that rin?!. I’ve been overwhelmed by Charlotte’s work since I first discovered her. I can never decide between about 7 pairs of her earrings, never mind the rings. I applaud you for such a beautiful choice, and for actually being able to make one. I’m flummoxed and want every single thing she makes! The ring suits you so beautifully.

    1. Lisa, I was lucky in that I hadn’t seen her pieces before, and the jewelry boutique only had a select few. This ring just jumped out at me, and I was so happy it was the right size. After I bought it, I researched her designs, and oh my! Saw so many I’d wear in a heartbeat.

  3. What a lovely comment from Jill. I do not do a lot of clutter but I do keep what I really like, so if we were downsizing, it would probably be traumatic. What a generous and thoughtful way to let possessions go, people are only taking what they want, so Jill will know her things will be wanted, sometimes difficult when giving gifts. When our time comes to move on, I want to remember this. Would be rather poor at parting from (far too many) books, despite a clearance about five years ago. I certainly do not think I would want to do a Marie Kondo, think I have too many of my own ideas!

  4. We have loads of books but now rarely buy them in an attempt not to accumulate more. Our library use has ramped up which we are enjoying. If there’s something I can’t get and need quickly (I.e., for book club), I simply download it. I recently read Where the Crawdads Sing and loved it.

  5. Yes, it is good to release books from shelfdom. I see books as sweaters on a chilly day-0r a blueprint to a puzzle…… they can wrap you up and insulate you, or show you a way ……or they just entertain us.
    I recently downsized, and that also meant letting alot of books go. I might add it is easier if you have a personal reserve- I own some certain books that are like my bibles……they are mine only, as I do not loan them out or share. They are permanently mine. But all the others are entertainment. off they go to a new home to teach someone else………..

  6. Thanks for the roundup on different topics! I enjoyed it. I can’t have caffeine but for the last few days I’ve been heating a big mug of hot water and wrapping my fingers around it. It’s cold here!! My very favorite books I don’t loan out, but the others I pass along for others to enjoy. Love Essie’s gel coat.

  7. I’m doing much better beating the winter “blahs” this year, thanks in part to the “hygge” mind-set! I have the premier flickering battery operated candles from Pottery Barn and have them set up in my sitting room – I bought the remote, too, so at the touch of dusk I light up the room in soft, comforting candlelight. Then I can hunker down in a cuddly blanket with a great book…I can’t beat winter, so I must join it.

    Books are so important to me…but I had to admit to myself that not every mass-market paperback needs to be displayed or kept…I have been “Kon-Mari-ing” since the book came out, but not following her advice “literally”…I do use her tag line, “does this spark joy?” It really has changed my mind-set about what to keep!!

    As always, thanks, Susan, for starting these conversations.

  8. I highly recommend “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Masaru Emoto. He is a Japanese scientist who has discovered that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words and feelings. The photos of the ice crystals are amazing. A thought provoking read.

  9. I don’t have a lot of room for books in my home. Therefore, I either donate them to the local Library, or I give them to friends who love mysteries. In fact, I gave a complete set of C. J. Box mysteries to a friend and he was very appreciative. I love being able to read the first book to the last book in a series. Now I am reading Ian Rankin’s John Rebus books in order.

    1. Oh, I have Parisian friends who live in tiny studios with so many books that it is as if they are living inside a bookcase. I have a great many books too, in a small flat – larger than those studios – but did a big cull a couple of years ago and will do another. I can find most books I want in French or in English through our library system and the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, but have kept most of my books in Italian or other languages that are not so available.

      I’m doing another cull but this time of year it is actually difficult to get some things to a charity shop, even via bus or métro (and cycling is out of the question – lots of ice this year). And it is even harder to get to the écocentre that takes worn-out clothing – though I’m sceptical as to whether the fibres actually are recycled.

      Coffee is a boost, and even hot tea and “infusions”. Herbal “teas”, but also think of pouring boiling water over some fresh ginger in your teapot.

      Pseu, I love red and there are so many shades from subtle to powerful.

      Yes, I know that people can get the winter blahs even in places where their “winters” are laughable by our standards; that was very much the case where I was studying in Italy.

  10. I generally read now on iBooks (on my iPad) because it’s easier on my eyes and I can read in bed if I can’t sleep (set to night mode) and not wake my husband. It does cut down on clutter, but I sorely miss being able to pass books around. For example, the book I just finished is Educated, by Tara Westover. I recommended it to everyone – but they’ll have to secure their own copies.
    Like Tea, I too love battery candles (from Costco) to supplement the lighting, but I just set mine to come on at a set time and last for several hours. It gets dark early here in the Northwest! I also find winter is an ideal time to go to the movies and have recently enjoyed Green Book, On the Basis of Sex (biopic on RBG) and Vice.
    And shortly we’re escaping winter for a few weeks – in Hawaii.

  11. I think you will enjoy Stone Diaries. Carol Shields is a well loved Canadian writer who passed away a few years ago. I’ve always loved her work. She’s kind of a cross between Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler, but still very much just herself. I met her once at a book signing and found out she lived in Paris for a few years, when her husband worked for External Affairs (like your State Department). I loved Shields’ story about sitting in a Paris cafe writing. Sigh. Wish I was doing that right now instead of looking out the window at the piles of messy, slushy, god-awful snow, that fell as beautiful, soft skiable stuff and now isn’t. Ha.

  12. Love the Chanel Gitane polish! Chanel Pirate has been my go-to red (nails and lips), but the Gitane is now on my list.
    I have too many books, and need to pass some along for others to enjoy. I’m currently reading The Nightingale, and highly recommend!

  13. A local charity holds book sales twice a year which helped me donate hundreds of books when I left large home. Always feels good to set a book free of ‘shelfdom’ – (as former librarian I love the mind picture). Lately winter has been more difficult day by day than usual, prompting me to reread a few classics. Last night I searched for Jane Austen on Saved my leaving the warm for bitter cold and snow outside. This free site is a very good one to check for titles if reading online doesn’t bother you.
    Thanks Susan for posting interesting and useful information nearly each day.

  14. That give away Jill is doing is brilliant. We have lots of books and share them readily – we will have to do some purging sooner or later….
    I mainly read ebooks now from the library. Currently reading and really enjoying :The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson)
    Suz from Vancouver

  15. Just finished a book that I loved. In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin. It’s a new book. I happen to love books about journalists/reporters, so this was right up my alley. Next is Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright, before my spring trip to Prague.

    Love your column, Susan, especially your writing and musings about life.

  16. I highly recommend A Gentleman in Moscow as a winter read. What would you do if you were sentenced to life you life in a luxury hotel? What would you value enough to take with you into your tiny room?!

    1. I loved both A Gentleman in Moscow AND Amor Towles
      first book Rules of Civility, which I just finished on Audible.

  17. On one hand, I agree about letting go, especially of books. On the other hand, when I keep a book it’s either because I know the author or because I loved it so much I want to lend it out to friends or hope to read it again.
    Speaking of decluttering, I just went through all my files and shredded everything that was more than six years old or irrelevant. Felt good!

    1. I tried to do the shredding of old documents thing last weekend. Shred 5 pages one at a time, spend an hour trying to pry out the paper jam from one misfed page, shred a few pages, spend another hour digging out a paper jam. I gave up and bagged the old documents and took them to a professional document shredding service. I need to invest in a better shredder. ; )

  18. I did too, but not long ago Revenue Canada claimed I failed to do my taxes in 2010 (ridiculous). I also shredded almost everything over six years old, except for some things that may be useful to historians or biographers (not of me, of certain late friends who are well-known), AFTER asking Service Canada how far back one has to keep documents (it is 6 years here). I sent them a letter to that effect and no further news so far.

    Another thing many people should cull is an oversupply of dishes and kitchenware. I know a lady in nearby senior’s housing (nice, but small) who has kept all her long-dead mother’s dishes (not valuable or pretty). These take up most of her kitchen cabinets.

  19. I have always suffered from the winter blahs. It is mostly the sunlight deprivation that would get to me. I moved from a climate where winters were very gloomy and cold but little sunshine. Living in Florida helps tremendously! It can get chilly here in the winter but it is almost always sunny. I have more energy here. I must be solar powered! I, too, love books. I never got in to reading books on Kindle. I prefer the feel of a real book in my hands. I have one average size book shelf in my home office. When its full I donate. I have a few books I’ve had for a very long time but really culled my books when we moved south. In fact, organizing and culling your “stuff’ is so very liberating.

  20. I love Carol Shields, too. A Canadian treasure! I used to think it was sacrilege to give away books – now I try to practice “I don’t have to own the thing to remember and enjoy the thing”. This has been very helpful in letting go of books as well as some of my parents’ sentimental things that aren’t really my style.

    We live on the West Coast where you might think the rain/cloudy skies would be depressing. I don’t usually find it so – and we have such moist skin as a bonus. We are lucky enough to live in a new Scandi-modern home – lots of light, high ceilings, etc. – and we have a beautiful modern linear fireplace. I just love turning down the lights at dusk because our house looks spectacular with lots of candles and the fire going and good friends (or just us) for simple dinners.

    I always enjoy your style recommendations and the thought and effort you put into your blog. You and “High Heels” are my favourites! Thank you both!

  21. PS – thanks for the recommendations about the burgers. As a pescatorian, I really miss burgers so much and will hope they are available to buy in Canada!

  22. I too have been purging my extensive library. I put together a bookshelf at our dental office and have invited our patients to help themselves. We have many avid readers and I’m hoping most of my books will be passed on giving many others the same pleasure I experienced reading them.
    I really enjoy your daily blog and always look forward to opening my email and seeing your next installment.

  23. I was born and lived for 20++ years in a country with long and very cold winters. Loved all 4 seasons and now, that I live in SF area, I miss all that. I studied medicine, so I never had time to suffer the “blahs”, too busy in ER. Now that I retired, I’m too busy painting in water color, and just opened an Etsy shop creating jewelry. I come from a very talented and creative family on my fathers side and all my life craved for free time to create something. Now, I have time to swim long distance several times a week which allows me time to “create” the things I love in my mind and then go and accomplish that. I’m compulsive by nature if something interests me, and whenever there’s time left late at night, I read in French just to keep me fluent in that language. Mostly, biographical or historical books. Never a dull moment!

  24. The Stone Diaries was published 24 years ago (1995), and I’ve had it sitting on my bookshelf for around 10 years. Whenever it’s been time to pick a new book from my shelves, I’ve chosen something else. After all these years, I finally cracked open The Stone Diaries last night. Then I open your blog post this morning and a picture of the cover is staring back at me. At first I thought I wasn’t fully awake…haha. What a crazy coincidence!

  25. Ah, yes -books. As a former librarian I have always loved books – and now have way too many. Once a year our local library has a sale and I purge my book collection and donate to the sale. I still like owning some of the books and find that purchasing book second-hand from Amazon is a savings! I also only read books in paper – not on Kindles – no warmth there for me. One of my new favorites is THE LOST WORDS by Robert MacFarlane – lovely illustrations and a journey of lost words. Cookbooks are also favorites – get them from the library – copy the recipes I want to try and return them! Thanks for bringing up books I always love to see what others are reading.

  26. Another book recommendation here — “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” just bowled me over! The concept on which the book is based is extraordinary and one I had never ever thought of before. To say anything more would be a big fat spoiler. 😉

    Ann in Missouri

  27. Have you ever read Love, Loss, and What I Wore? It’s a slim book, but delightful. I checked it out of the library and liked it so much I bought a copy to keep.

  28. Oh, books! I was among those horrified by the Marie Kondo “only keep 30 books” advice. We probably have hundreds of books in our house. Our kids once had to do a survey where they were asked how many books were in their house. Like 0-20, 20-50, and so on. I started reading to them when they were infants barely able to hold their heads up! So they chose the largest option of household books. Which, btw, is directly correlated with academic achievement.

    Anyway, we do have a bit of a clutter problem. My husband used to read only when traveling for work, but now is retired and reads a lot. He and our retired neighbor have started a book exchange kind of deal, so they are passing piles of books back & forth! At the same time, our oldest daughter, while waiting to find out where she’ll go to grad school, is working at Barnes & Noble (she told them during her interview that she already knew the layout of the store really well, because she was there all the time). So guess what we all got for Christmas? More books!!! She gets an employee discount so I think she’s stocking up bigtime before she quits!

  29. I’m a retired librarian and as such am not terribly sentimental about books. Probably 90% of what I read, including ebooks, comes from the public library. The books I keep are those I refer to over and over again, love to peruse, are truly exceptional or personally special to me. I probably only own 200 – 300 books

    I love Carol Shields, Republic of Love was one of my very favorites from long ago.

  30. I’m a retired librarian and as such I’m not very sentimental about books. I purchase and own very few. Probably 90% of what I read, including ebooks, comes from the public library. I only purchase books that I refer to often, love to peruse or are really, truly exceptional. I rarely reread fiction and see no point in books that won’t be touched again gathering dust. I donate them to the library for their book sales.

    And I adore Carol Shields – I loved her Republic of Love. One of my favorites many years ago.

    1. Agree, Carolyn….I am also a retired librarian ( public and school ) and feel the same. Purchase VERY few and love that I can find so many interesting things to read at the public library. The library is such a resource that so many people do not use….hard to believe !

  31. I don’t have the winter blues, but cabin fever from our sweltering summer. It was 118 degrees F yesterday and too hot to even swim in my pool. Instead, I decluttered and sorted out underwear/lingerie/scarves drawers. As for books, I donate pulp fiction paperbacks either to my library or the local charity shop, but can’t part with my favourites (usually historical and biographical) which I re-read or use as a reference source. I just finished reading Guy Walters, ‘The Great Escape’ (no Steve McQueen motorcycle ride) and Ian Shaw’s ‘On Radjii Beach’ (an account of the 21 Australian Army Nurses massacred by the Japanese in 1942 on Banka Island).

  32. Great post….I really don’t have winter blues, though. I love this quiet time of the year…to drink good coffee and tea, enjoy the fireplace, and read. Right now my book club is reading Becoming, but Michele Obama. It is an interesting read. Just read a fictionalized biography of Josephine Baker (Josephine Baker’s Last Dance) by Sherry Jones. Good read and I loved the Paris parts! We cleared out tons of books when we downsized and donated them to the public library. Some they entered into the collection, and some they sold at their book sale. Either way, it helped the library – which is a wonderful resource for readers that so many people do not use. Makes no sense to purchase a book if the library has it. Now I still do purchase books and then donate them to the small community library in my apartment building. Everyone loves to see what is new as we donate what we have read. But, there are still some books I keep to read and reread each year. It is almost time to read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett….perfect for when you think Spring will never arrive!!!
    Yes to red nails….so chic. Wearing a darker burgundy shade from Revlon now but will switch to BRIGHT red for Valentines. Thanks for all your posts and ideas.

  33. I really don’t do much clutter…but books are an exception. I love a house full of books! It just feels so cozy. But if you are an avid reader, you really do have to deal with them. I donate some, give many away to friends, and absolutely love . I get most of my books that way, costing me only the cost of postage to mail a book to get credit, usually about $2.65 right now.

  34. One thing I prefer about real books over Kindle books is that you have the ability to lend or give the book to someone else to enjoy. It gives one the excuse to get together to exchange the book 🙂

  35. I tend not to get the winter blues and don’t think I ever have done. My mother does and makes it worse by anticipating it from about October, so it is almost four months of feeling down-hearted for her. I do like to spring clean, however, and being in the house more means I can tidy up and sort things to my heart’s content. Plus read. And look at things on the internet. And write. Having more time now to do these things gives me more pleasure than anything else. I think I have reached a point where I find every day a gift, and no longer worry about things I should be doing. That’s makes a huge difference.

  36. Hello,

    I grew up in Poland in 1970s. Our house was full of books, some dating back to pre war and belonged to my grandparents. Basically even a thought of throwing away a book was considered a sin and very uncultured thing to do. All those books were donated to used books store. I still have some of that guilt in me when getting rid of books. I have my prized possessions that will always be around, others can be donated …I am OK with that. Here is a book recommendation for you: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen’s.
    These two I will always have on my bookshelf: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto and Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. The fact the both authors are Japanese is purely accidental…I think.