Wednesday was a lovely day in St. Louis- beautiful fall trees against a sunny blue sky and unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid 70’s. A girl cannot ask for more than the opportunity to roll her windows down in November. However, when that same happy girl looked at the forecast for Thursday and saw that it was going to be rainy with a high of 50, it finally hit her- it is going to get really cold really soon.
This will be my 6th midwest winter. I know I didn’t grow up in Antarctica but I somehow thought that North Carolina winters had accurately prepared me for winters above the Mason-Dixon. Let me tell you something, friends. I was so wrong. My mom has lived in Massachusetts and Arizona and still maintains that the hottest and coldest she has ever been was in Columbia, Missouri. There is something about the cold here that soaks deep down inside you and turns a little piece of your soul into something that’s “always winter and never Christmas.” If you think I am exaggerating then try and explain how I am now the kind of person who gets into her car on a 100 degree day and doesn’t turn on the AC because she is cold.
I remember my freshman year at Mizzou, naive little North Carolinian that I was, asking my roommate why class wasn’t cancelled because it was 32 degrees and snowing. She, Chicago born and bred, looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s only supposed to be three inches and it’s not even really sticking. No one cancels class for three inches.” I thought she was confused. THREE INCHES? That shuts a city down! I used to get school cancelled because there was a small possibility it might snow. Clearly, I had a lot to learn.
Despite the totally soul-killing winters that last well into March, humid 100 degree summer days, cicada plagues, and the fact that St. Louis is on a giant fault line (ps no one ever talks about this and i’m scared!) I sort of love this place and i’m going to be stuck here for at least three more winters. Although I am still somewhat of a novice when it comes to extreme cold (Case in point: last year a blizzard hit Columbia and the only way I could conceptualize it was to call it a “snow hurricane”) I’d like to think i’ve picked up a few survival tips to make the next four months a little more bearable.
Tip 1: Stockpile Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane Tea and buy a cute thermos.
The best way to survive winter is to be drinking something warm all the time. While I would love for that to be coffee I still feel the effects of too much caffeine (unlike Katie who basically has a coffee IV going at all times and never seems to notice) so this leaves me with tea. You know how sometimes the idea of drinking tea is so lovely but then you end up with this mug of weakly flavored hot water that doesn’t taste nearly as good as it smells? Candy cane lane tea actually has a discernible flavor and that flavor is minty, vanilla, and delicious. They only sell it around the holidays so make sure you buy enough to last you through February (or, the whole year if you are me) I suppose you could use a regular to-go mug instead of a thermos, but I think a thermos shows that you have really committed. A thermos says “listen, 12 ounces is not enough because it is cold 24 hours a day and I need a beverage holder that understands this.” Also people use thermoses when they go camping so I think it makes me look outdoorsy (which, obviously, I totally am! DO I NEED TO SHOW YOU MY BACKPACKING MEDAL?!)
Tip 2: Hang twinkle lights on all available surfaces in your home.
In the winter it gets dark at, like, one pm and it makes you start googling those fancy sun lamps they sell people in England so they can get Vitamin D and not be depressed. While twinkle lights can’t deliver any Vitamin D, they are a definite mood-booster. Some people think twinkle lights are just for Christmas but I say that if you value your sanity you should just leave them up until March.
Tip 3: Find a wake up buddy.
Basically a big reason I think it would be great to be married is because it’s really hard for me to wake up in the morning unless someone starts talking to me, otherwise I forget I am a person with relationships and responsibilities and I think my sole purpose in life to be cocooned in my blankets forever. It’s hard enough for me to get up when the sun in shining and the birds are chirping, so it’s next to impossible to wake up when it’s freezing and dark. Luckily, I have Molly Mulcahy who calls me every morning at six am even though I mumble incoherently for the first five minutes. Usually ten minutes in we are laughing and let me tell you that is nicest way to wake up!
Tip 4: Eat so much soup.
Squirrels prepare for winter by gathering acorns, I prepare by making unreal quantities of soup. It doesn’t even matter what kind as long as it’s not that bizarre cold soup people make in the summer. That stuff is gross. I recommend the Stipo Soup that Katie’s family makes. You may have spent your whole life calling it Santa Fe soup blissfully unaware that it’s real name is Stipo Soup, thanks to me now you know! Also I bet if you asked her very nicely she would give you the recipe. This is also a good time of year to invest in a crock pot. Crock pots are magical devices that cook your food for you while you are away so you can come home to a bowl of hot soup. Why everyone doesn’t use these all the time is beyond me.
Tip 5: Own a lot of really beautiful lounge wear.
In the winter, especially if you live in a house with poor insulation (which, by the way, is apparently any house you live in during college and grad school) you will need to wear multiple layers at all times. When I was a little I would get a fancy doll each year on Christmas, and now I get a pair of Anthropologie pajama pants. Maybe you need to consider starting such a tradition. Even though there is no reason pajama pants should ever cost $70, you are allowed to make irrational decisions when it is cold out. If over-priced sleepwear isn’t your thing, you should at least invest in some foot duvets, they are like tiny blankets for your feet! Please trust me on this.
That’s all I’ve got, what are your tips for surviving the season?