Saturday, January 6, 2018

What We Love - No, Really! - About Winter

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  I have a confession to make, dear readers. Sometimes, we all jump onto our weekly conversations the night before they're posted. Other times, we plan ahead, and everyone adds their six cents worth well before the time you get to see it on this blog.

As you might imagine, I'm usually the night-before gal, apologizing for slapping a subject up six hours before I need to post it. But this time, because of my trip to Hawaii and spending New Years at a friend's house, I was way ahead of myself. Way, way ahead. Which is why, on December 18th, I asked everyone what they loved about winter.

I know. There hasn't been a topic so ill-timed since we almost ran the one about why we loved Harvey Weinstein movies in early October.

But despite the fact that we've just gone through the bomb cyclone (aka, a Nor'easter) and what's stretching into weeks of sub-zero temperatures, despite the fact both downstairs drains have cracked from ice accumulation and I need to bail out my kitchen sink every four hours, despite the fact my 275 gallon furnace ran out of oil 18 days after I had it filled and in the process clogged up my water heater so I have no hot water...

There are still things I love about winter.

Stew. Hot, creamy soups, potato, chowder, squash. The beauty of fields blanketed in snow and trees sparkling with ice. Snuggling together on the sofa in front of the woodstove and watching THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW while a snow storm blows outside (a family tradition.) Reading in front of the fire. Lighting candles, wrapping up in blankets and and going full hygge. Visiting friends (in Maine, we're all so busy soaking up the short summer, winter is when we socialize.) The symphony and the theater season.

So even though it feels like I'm living at the bottom of a crevasse in Antarctica right now, I do love winter. Reds?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Not that our winters are as cold as yours! But still, we have a couple of cold months ahead. I love the sense of dormancy, of the world resting up for spring. I love not having huge air conditioning bills!!!! (Our heat is gas, so our winter bills are about a third as much as high summer...) I love curling up in front of the fire. Furry throws and down comforters. And I LOVE winter soups and stews. I don't even mind the shorter days. (Having lived in Scotland, it's all relative...) Maybe I have some secret Danish ancestors!

Now if we could just have a few good snows--without Texas ice!

 HALLIE EPHRON: What I love about winter…
Scraping ice off the windshield.
Shoveling snow.
Turning paler than the underbelly of a flounder.
Cold toilet seats.
Wearing so many layers I feel like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Chopping wood… only kidding.
No, I cannot honestly say there are a ton of things I love about winter except… the days ARE getting longer, cardinals and juncos and chickadees and titmice hang out in the yard, and when it comes, spring is SO SWEET (and short).

(Debs, ice IS the worst.)

DEBS: P.S. As much as I enjoy my garden seven or eight months out of the year, I LOVE not having the constant chores and the watering! Happy to look out at my bare yard and watch the squirrels frolic.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I love when it snows and snows and snows. But only IF we are home, and  DURING the snow. It's gorgeous, and magical, and transporting. However. After that interlude it's an enormous pain.  I actually love going to the grocery store before a storm, when everyone is panic buying, because I think it's so human and funny. People are buying EVERYTHING!  I love when we can stay home in a storm. I love seeing dogs play in the snow.  Beef stew, and chili. I don't even mind the dark evenings, either, it's cozy.   And somehow, time seems to go by a bit more slowly, and for that, I am always grateful

RHYS BOWEN: The thing I love best about winter is that I CAN AVOID IT!  I'm like the swallows, I fly south at the end of October and remain in Arizona until the end of March, enjoying sitting by the pool, walking through the desert and sitting at outdoor cafes. One of the reasons I left England was that it was cold and damp and dark for so many months of the year. I do not do cold well! I don't mind going to the ski slopes for a quick run down the mountain followed by hot toddy, but the thing I dislike most is the dreary darkness. To wake up to dark, to see the daylight fail just after four is something I find really hard. I think I'm definitely a SAD person. I just want to hibernate when the sun isn't streaming in through my windows. 

INGRID THOFT:  The windy winter rain in Seattle always feels like permission to curl up on the couch and read for hours on end.  I love hot chocolate and cozy sweaters and thick soups.  And as much as I appreciate our summer influx of tourists, I really like getting my city back!  I love being able to walk through the market at any time of day, any day of the week, without having to squeeze through a sea of people.  The city seems to exhale, before it gears up for the return of the cruise ships.


JENN McKINLAY: We're having a bit of a cold snap here in the desert (50's during the day, freezing at night). I don't like it. I grew up in Connecticut and survived the blizzard of '78 where the trees were coated in ice and the entire state shut down for three days. Brrr. While I love winter sports like ice skating and skiing, I don't feel the need to live in the snow and cold for six months out of the year. I can manage the two hour drive to Flagstaff for some fun in the snow and be home in my pool by nightfall. What I do like about the cooler temps, even here in Phoenix, is cooking the heartier meals like shepherd's pie, feeling as if it's okay to sleep in because it's cold out from under the covers, knitting (my hobby) feels more normal than it does when it's 115 outside, and I sleep better in the cold. No idea why, but I do. 

LUCY BURDETTE:  I'm with Rhys, I don't mind missing most of winter. But I did love the day after a big snowstorm when everything is quiet and covered with inches or feet of snow. I just don't like it dragging on and on...Here's a picture of me and Tonka, back in our winter days. He loved the cold and snow, as his fur isn't really designed for Key West heat and humidity!! I don't mind a little early darkness either. It feels weird to get into bed with a book in the summer when it's light out.

JULIA: How about you, dear readers? Can you find anything to love about this challenging season?

61 comments:

  1. I love looking at white, new fallen snow, but I don’t love being cold, slipping on ice, trudging through snowbanks, or driving on icy roads. However, I do love fireplaces, candlelight, chowder, bread warm from the oven, hot tea, quilts . . . .
    It doesn’t have to be winter for me to love curling up with a book, although winter certainly encourages it.

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  2. Growing up in Toronto, winter was not such a big deal. It's amazing how long the winter season lasts by moving just a 5 hour drive away! So I have learned to embrace an Ottawa winter where the snow starts falling in November and may not melt away until April! I am making and eating a lot of comfort foods such as soups and stews. And for me, the stark beauty of our winter wonderland was embraced by going on group hikes or snowshoeing. When you are setting a brisk pace, -30C/-30F is not a big deal. I am sad that I can't get my fresh air/endorphins that way this year.

    And I also now better understand why snowbirds go somewhere warm in the winter. Alas, I was only able to escape the Ottawa winter for 3 weeks, but the time in spent in Hawaii and Phoenix attending Left Coast Crime and an extended vacation during the past 2 years was worth it!

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  3. I'm a four-generation Californian and I love the winter. Cross-country skiing through the trees on fresh snow in a a quiet park? Perfect. I confess I like shoveling out, too. Hugh and I do it together, and after being cooped up inside during the storm it's lovely to get some fresh air into my lungs and work muscles that have been getting a bit lazy. I also love the soups and stew season, and it being cold enough to bake bread frequently. Plus the weather is very conducive to getting a lot of writing done!

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    1. are u no longer in this group of writers i didn't see your pic at the top

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    2. PTClayton - I never have been! I'm blessed to be an occasional guest and a frequent commenter, though.

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    3. But pt, check out Wicked Cozies! https://wickedcozyauthors.com/

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  4. I miss snow. I grew up in an area where we got moderate snows, and now I live in a place where snow is rare. I look back nostalgically on the time when I could snuggle up indoors and watch the snow fall, then go out when the skies cleared and run around with my dog, making those first tracks across the pristine white. I even like the first, tentative breath of warm air, and listening to the music of meltwater and dropping icicles. And I have discovered that I would really like all of that to take no more than 24 hours, thank you very much. Weeks and weeks and weeks of snow? That would get old.

    What else do I like about winter? I like sweaters. I like the clothing I get to wear when it's cold, as opposed to the clothing I have to wear when it's hot. In the winter I can pull out my very toasty band jacket, my flannel shirts, the enormous hooded bathrobe, and my wool cape.

    During the Christmas-to-New Year's cold snap the temps got down to the teens and 20s and stayed there. I was off work, and I had a sprained ankle, so I got a guilt-free week of staying in, reading books, and snuggling with the pets under the flannel blanket. I like that a lot. Thanks, winter!

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    1. Gigi, it's funny what we wish for. You want to wear sweaters and flannel shirts. Whereas, I want a week this winter where I don't have to wear a turtleneck and fleece jacket INDOORS since the radiators in my apartment are struggling to pump out enough heat! It is -40C/-40F windchill here this morning in Ottawa again...and I am waiting until it "warms" up to -30C before venturing outdoors today!

      Sorry to hear about your sprained ankle...but at least you did get to rest up and read.

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    2. I love it, Grace! Not your -40F temperatures, but the notion that you're tired of turtlenecks and fleece. I figure you can always put on another layer and drink more hot tea, but when the summer temps hit 110F and your AC cannot keep up, no matter how much money you shovel into the electric company, you just can't take off any more clothing, once you're down to bare skin. And, I don't know about you, but I've yet to find a place that balances out into all four seasons without horrible humidity. If you do find such a place, we could all move there!

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    3. No, I don't know of a perfect place with four distinct seasons and low humidity!

      I think this "polar vortex" extreme cold spell is more annoying than normal since we had what was called "a bummer of a summer" here in Ontario.

      We had record amounts of rainfall in July and not a single day reaching 30C (86F). So the AC did not get used much and there were not many shorts/sandals/beach-like sunny days.

      I can't imagine what it's like to live in Arizona or Texas or southern California in the summer!

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  5. When snow covers every branch, every twig, everything coated with a white shadow except the darkness of a stream cutting down the ravine. Getting out to shovel or cross-country ski or just to break tracks with the dog--and coming back inside to hot chocolate with whipped cream--because you always feel like a kid again after playing in the snow!

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  6. I'm with Flora. I've been out hiking almost every day in the bitter cold, and after the first five or ten minutes of miserableness, I've loved it! The cold air makes everything seems sharper, somehow, and I love seeing the animal tracks and trying to figure out what critters have also traipsed across the snow. The holly berries look so bright red and pretty against the white; I feel like I'm in a Christmas card or Tasha Tudor book. Then afterward, I've earned the right to snuggle up with a movie or good book and drink hot chocolate!

    All that being said, though, I won't be sorry to see the end of this cold snap. AT ALL!

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  7. The quiet solitude after a snowfall is the best. Makes you stop and count your blessings.

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  8. I find the cold weather much more comfortable than heat and humidity and, best of all, there is no ragweed! I love the way snow sparkles in the sun, watching big, fat slow-falling snowflakes, reading by the fire, lighting candles, wearing my flannel bathrobe, and cuddling in bed listening to the winter wind. Absolute best thing about winter: snow days! It's like God give you permission to take a day off to curl up by the fire and read a book.

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    1. No ragweed IS a plus. Thanks for giving me one more thing to be thankful for, Cathy. LOL

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  9. It's quiet in winter. I get more writing done than at any other time of year. The garden is under a blanket of snow. When temps rise above 25, I give the dogs long walks. I deal with a year's worth of papers and make a resolution to be more organized, though I always fail. Comfort food: chicken pie, stuffed pork chops, and pot roast. Evenings in front of the gas fire watching Acorn DVD's. And come February 8th, the winter Olympics, that every-four-year marathon when we brush up on our figure skating and skiing vocabulary.

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  10. I love the glint of the sun off ice covered branches, the beauty of hoarfrost in the morning making the landscape look like it's covered in lace. Winter foods, stews, chili, a family concoction called manast. Long nights spent writing or streaming all the fabulous shows I didn't have time to see in the summer. Yep, winter has its attractions.

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  11. I love *looking* at freshly fallen snow. Everything is so crisp, and clean, and beautiful - the ice particles on the windows and leaves. But please don't ask me to go out in it!

    And I love sitting before a crackling fire to read, or watch TV, or take a nap, or...

    Mary/Liz

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  12. -40 WC? Grace, that's horrifying. Here in Boston the wind chill right now is -15. And I just discovered one of our storm windows doesn't close properly.

    Forgot to add to my list: Worrying about whether or not the pipes will freeze overnight. That's fun, too.

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    3. Hallie, -15F is still plenty cold, especially with the dampness there. It is funny that -30C/-30F is tolerable but in all seriousness, when it is -40C/-40F, they issue frostbite and hypothermia warnings. I like breathing in fresh winter air but it kind of hurts at these temperatures.

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    4. Grace, your -30C is -22F, which is what it's going to be tonight. I have to say, I'm not finding it tolerable at all! If it ever gets down to -40F, I'm selling up and moving south.

      I salute you Canadians. You are made of tougher stuff than we are.

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    5. Julia, it is Ottawans who are tough. Us Torontonians used to go and hide indoors when it reached -20C. You just have to learn and adapt! And there are plenty of tough Americans...I have been in Montana when it felt like -50F!

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    6. Ha, well I removed the duplicate comments above...I couldn't figure out why they posted and then disappeared a few minutes later. You get the point once - it's dangerously cold here with the windchill!

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  13. Oh, one more thing I forgot to add to my list: cold feet. Love them cold feet.

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  14. I have cold hands and feet in the dog days of August, so you just know I'm thrilled about winter's bitter cold days. Not.

    However, there is an upside. My dear husband indulges me with lots of wood for the fireplaces, especially the one at the farm. We were just there overnight, and I happily sat in front of it with my book, shawl, hot tea, and wooly socks, with my feet propped up on the (seat-height) hearth. New Year's Day we had a fire going all day here at home, too, and had some lovely conversations about the year to come with a background of a cheery crackle.

    One of my students from waaay back when I taught sewing went through the Fashion Design program at Rhode Island School of Design, and she now has a knitwear company (Peony & Moss, if you're interested). She's concentrated on socks up until now, but had a Kickstarter campaign for branching out into other, bigger knitted goods. I scored not only a lovely sweater and thigh-high socks, but also a fabulously warm knitted blanket that is my new favorite thing. It makes a dandy shawl, and is in fact slung around my shoulders as I type.

    And one of my girlfriends gave me the silliest looking fingerless gloves for my birthday: suede with fur trim, and useless fur tassels. She cracked up when I sent her a photo of me holding my book while wearing them. It works! The tassels get in the way, but they're so goofy I can't bring myself to remove them.

    When it snows I do enjoy looking out the window in the night, especially when there is a full moon. The trees throw shadows across the yard and the stillness is so peaceful. But the cold... brrr.

    Stay cozy, everyone.

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  15. It seems that Hallie and I have similar opinions of winter!

    I don't need winter to make soup or hot chocolate; I enjoy them year round! At work I get to wear sweaters all year round, and even get to wrap myself up in a thick blanket at times!(Don't ask!)

    I really can't find anything to like about winter. I hate being cold. I hate having to shovel snow or remove it from my car. Because of some long-standing orthopedic issues, I shouldn't be doing it. On New Year's Day afternoon I slipped on ice at home and ended up with a badly sprained wrist. Because of that and an infection in one of the wounds from being hit by a car, my knee surgery has been postponed indefinitely. Can't use crutches with one hand.I was fortunate enough to find a friend who was willing and able to do my snow removal (deck and car) yesterday. It meant missing a morning from work, but at least I didn't get hurt yet again. When I was finally leaving the house I discovered that my car's battery was dead.[insert all those words your mother tells you not to say!] By the time that was dealt with it was mid afternoon and too late to go to work.

    One thing I do during the winter that I don't do the rest of the year is count the number of days left until spring!

    DebRo

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    1. Oh, no, DebRo! Clearly, we need to open a Kickstarter to send you to Arizona until Memorial Day!

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    2. Yeah, I could visit Rhys and Jenn!

      DebRo

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    3. Oh, DebRo, it's time you had some better luck!!! Stay warm!

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    4. DebRO! Inserting all the words. Poor thing poor thing...all your bad luck is over for the year though, right?

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  16. A friend just called and told me that her pipes are frozen. Such joy.

    DebRo

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  17. I love our winters here, and that last thing on my list, right after death, is moving somewhere warmer. I spent lots of years in California, both north and south, and Arizona and the DFW area, get the part about playing croquet on the lawn Christmas Day, but I can not bear the heat and humidity of a southern summer. We're in the middle of a polar freeze right now, much like Grace in Ottawa, which isn't very far away. Except for figuring out how to get the dogs in and out without frostbitten pads on their little feet, I'm good. And tomorrow the temp goes back up into double digits with two weeks predicted to hover around freezing or just above. That means I can resume my daily walks, enjoy checking the buds on the rhodies and the dogwoods -- do you know they set buds in the fall? We'll check the animal track: bunnies and raccoons and squirrels and birds of all kinds and sorts. We might even see the deer who live close by. And we'll be on the lookout for a Snowy Owl.

    We have street plows and salts trucks that keep the roads passable, and Ted has plowed our drive for decades. The city sends the sidewalk plows often enough to keep those open for the schoolchildren, most of whom get driven there anyway. Julie has this neat hand held spreader to get ice melt out, pet safe of course. And best of all we have Yak Tracks, indispensible. Google it or look here: https://smile.amazon.com/Yaktrax-Traction-Cleats-Walking-Jogging/dp/B0094GO7CS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1515254875&sr=8-2&keywords=yak+tracks+women

    We've been living on pots of chili, soup, Hoppin' John, cornbread, beans and greens, all that sort of soul food that I've finally convinced Julie is manna from heaven. Today we will take the Christmas decorations down inside the house, but the outside lights can stay up until spring for all I care. They are so pretty at night, glowing thru the snow like stained glass.

    Oh, and get more wood in for the fireplace. We got caught short Thursday when the storm began, and Julie will have to shovel her way to the wood pile.

    Here's to the Three Kings! Or were there four?

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    1. I can attest to the wonders of Yaktrax! I get a new pair every couple of years. In the winter I'm afraid to leave home without them.

      DebRo

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    2. Ann and DebRo: I agree with both. I have several pairs of Yaktraks but they break easily. So I also have a more heavy duty pair of Microspikes to use. Has anyone tried these...they are a lifesaver in the freezing rain!
      https://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/

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  18. I enjoy when winter ends. There's a reason I live in So Cal. Okay, so I do like rain in the winter and the cozy feeling it gives me. But I'm always quite thankful when spring starts warming things up again.

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  19. I love snow, but, like Hank, only when I don't have to get out in it and can enjoy a beautiful snowfall from the comfort of my nice, warm home. The only problem with that picture is that we haven't had any snow. Cold, but no snow. I feel a bit cheated. I grew up in the northeastern part of Kentucky, and there always seemed to be plenty of snow as a kid, and they still get snow today. Western Kentucky, especially in Owensboro, not so much. The snow seems to go north or south of us. What's up with that? I see the picturesque photos of my hometown Maysville in the snow and sigh.

    I don't like the short days, when it is dark by 4:30 or before in the afternoon. I'm enjoying it staying light now until 5:00. Of course, like all the other readers here, I love to curl up with a blanket and a good book and a cup of coffee in the winter. Oh, and the hot soups and chili are wonderful. I made chili last week, but my husband took most of it back to Kansas with him when he left Tuesday, which was what I intended when I fixed it, but now I'll need to make more. I plan on making vegetable soup next week, and I recently saw a recipe on FB for a creamy chicken and rice soup I want to try.

    Julia and others who are having frozen pipe issues now, I hope that problem can get resolved soon. I'm rather fond of hot water for a shower, and I imagine you all feel the same.

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  20. Oh DebRo, I’m so sorry. You are definitely snake bit as we used to say in Texas. Hope you get all bettah soon

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    1. Ann, at this point I can only laugh! At least I haven't had to deal with a tornado or an earthquake!

      DebRo

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  21. Julia, you were really prescient. Did I say I was looking forward to lower electric bills? Ha. Then came New Year's week, with nighttime temps in the low teens (F) which I know sounds warm to you farther north, but for us it means not only the gas furnace running non-stop, but electric space heaters going all day, just to get the house temp into the low 60s. Much too cold to work in my sunporch office--brrr--so I spent most of the week with the laptop on the kitchen island, huddled over a space heater.

    On the good side, we didn't have any frozen pipes. And, recuperating from Christmas, I spent several days on the living room sofa with a book, hot tea, and a roaring fire. That was bliss.

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  22. I've worried about loved ones on the east coast this week, but I'm so glad I don't live there anymore! I've been spoiled by milder temperatures, and you don't need to shovel rain! Hang in there, east coasters!

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  23. Snow is beautiful, and snow days can be lovely and lazy. But in a New England city, negotiating the terrain as the icy snow builds up is dreadful. I use a cane when it is icy, and carefully plan out each step. And I don't love cold, at all.

    I've set up two vacations -- a week in Florida (Zora Neal Hurston festival) very soon, and a week in Phoenix in February. Gotta getaway!

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    1. Denise, for winter I add an ice gripper to the cane that comes with me through the winter months. It doesn't always help, as sometimes the gripper "skates" across the ice. I also swear by Yaktrax. Ann posted a link to info about them. If I remember correctly, you're in New Haven. I'm not far away from you, in Milford so we have pretty much the same weather.

      DebRo

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  24. Challenging? Challenging? THE CHARLES RIVER IS FROZEN!! SNOW IS UP TO OUR SHOULDERS! But we are counting blessing like mad, we have not had floods or frozen pipes, (Knock on wood) and we were not in downtown Boston when there were ICE FLOES in the street.

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    1. Jenn mentioned the winter/blizzard of '78, which is the last time the Ohio River froze over. We had -35 temps, and about two feet of snow. The evening before the worst of the cold, my car died on the expressway from ice in the fuel line, when it was about -20, with my then-four-year old daughter and my girlfriend in the car. Luckily, some kind couple picked us up and drove us to warm safety.

      That night the water mains at my corner broke, twice, and froze into pools at the intersection, where three streets met at a low spot. The plows came and plowed up all the ice, smack up against any cars unlucky enough to be parked on that street. Because it stayed cold for nearly a month, my neighbor's car was entombed in ice for over five weeks.

      I had recently begun a new job at Merrill Lynch downtown, so I bundled up in my fake fur maxicoat and caught one of the last buses into town to get to work. In order to get to the office I battled ferocious winds across Fountain Square, only to find that no one else came to work that day, so the office was closed. The bus driver told me, as I was getting out downtown, that bus service was finished, so I was about to panic until one of the brokers showed up. He had driven, so he offered to drop me at home on his way back. In his Porsche. We were practically the only ones on the expressway, which was very odd.

      The next week or two we stayed in the deep freeze, and the only person in my building who could get his car out was Mike, who drove a Jeep. He gave everyone rides to the grocery store, thank goodness.

      And thank goodness we had no ice floes!

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    2. All my brilliant posts here have disappeared. It’s a creepy conspiracy!

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    3. NO ice floes! Karen, what an odyssey! Yeesh.

      And Ann, what happened?

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  25. Ann, every once in a while Blogger takes it upon itself to relegate comments to SPAM - And I go back in and retrieve them... (Blogger ALSO misses virtually all of the actual spam, which I swat) Consider yourself resurrected.

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    1. Oh Hallie, you’re the best. Thanks for resurrecting me. Makes me feel absolutely holy!

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    2. Thanks Hallie...I wondered what happened when my -40C/-40F posts kept disappearing a few minutes after being online. But I deleted 2 duplicate posts...everyone gets it that's it frigging cold in Ottawa.

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  26. I love winter. For me, winter is permission to read, write, cook, binge watch The Crown, and say no to events and activities I’d feel obligated to attend any other time of year. There’s no gardening to do, and it’s dark so early that you don’t even notice the dusting you should do.
    Winter is all about hibernation, and I dig it. This year family stuff is interrupting my annual hibernation, and while I love my family and enjoy these special times, the bear in me would rather be home in the cabin, snowed in until Spring.

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    1. Yes. And you are a bear of very big brain.

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  27. I used to cross-country (Nordic) ski a bit and sled and make snowmen with the nieces and nephews, and I loved snow days, even with the knowledge that they'd have to be made up for later. Now, any day when I don't like the weather is a free snow day, and I can admire winter beauty from indoors if I choose. Stay safe, all. <3

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  29. I grew up in the famous snow belt of upstate New York and think it is hard wired part of my brain.I've even blogged about it myself. I scoff at the more moderate winters in NY city where I live now.(Not this winter though!) However, my sister says if I had lived upstate the last 50 years, as she did, I would not miss the snow at all. BTW she lives in Texas now and is happy to have scorching summers as a trade-off for ice-less winters!

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  30. PS I LOVE the header photo of the red gloves in a heart. Too perfect.

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