Wednesday, January 18, 2012

JR's Very Unscientific Cure for SAD

DEBORAH CROMBIE: It's the middle of January. Christmas is so over. We've returned the things that didn't fit. Spent our gift certificates. The catalogs filled with lovely, sparkly things are in the recycle bin, and now our mailboxes are stuffed with credit card bills.

We've made our New Year's resolutions, and for they most part they've been the usual dreary stuff--eat less, go to the gym, give up this or that or the next thing.

Dark days ahead, indeed, at least for the next couple of months. (And yes, I do know that those of you who live in northern parts, especially Alaska with your record snows, are snickering at the idea of a Texan complaining about winter. But hey, it's our winter and we are entitled to our own degree of misery.)

So we here at Jungle Red felt OBLIGATED to come up with a few things that would actually make our readers want to draw every last drop of goodness from the long, cold months to come.

My list: First and always, BOOKS. Short days and long nights equal more reading. And then, almost as blissful, there's more Downton Abbey to look forward to, and a new Sherlock Holmes series! (And I guiltily admit that I will probably give in and watch the new season of American Idol. I always say I won't, but then I have to see what on earth Steven Tyler is going to wear. Or say ... And whether there is anyone who can actually sing.)

I'm throwing in SOUP. I love soup. I could eat soup every day, but am less inclined to make it once the temps start climbing, so winter is soup season for me (even if I can't bring myself to boil Hallie's lobsters.)

Hot chocolate.

Movies in front of the fire.

Crisp walks with the dog (that don't have to be taken before eight in the morning, which is the summer rule.)

And sun. I know we've promised not to be scientific, and there's lots of research that tells us why it's so important to get some sunlight every day. But from a purely personal perspective, if I can grab a half hour sitting in a patch of sunshine on my deck on a clear winter day, I feel about a hundred times better. Now I understand why the English are so crazy about conservatories. (Every proper English house should have a conservatory. Just look at the English home decorating magazines. Every other ad is for custom-built conservatories. The other half are for very expensive kitchen furniture.)

I could add looking at English decorating magazines to my list, but will let the other JRs have a go!

More reasons not to be SAD:

LUCY BURDETTE: You see, I have a mid-January birthday so there's a little excitement generated from that. But books books books is the main thing (and not just the launch of my new series:). Very excited about Deb's new one coming up. And I have a fabulous stack on my nightstand. And the University of Connecticut women's basketball. Oh, I am crazy about watching those young women play. And the UConn men too, but the women even more.

RHYS BOWEN: So far it's been warm and sunny in both California and Arizona. Now I'm back in CA and the temperature has dropped, making me think winter for the first time. (Yes, I know California winter isn't anything like New England but it feels cold to me.) So here's what I love: A fire crackling in the fireplace. Family sitting and laughing around the table. Reading a book while wrapped in a rug, sipping hot chocolate or a herb tea. Good music on the stereo. Knitting while watching the Australian Open on TV. Painting, sketching. I also love soups--thick and hearty. And the Acacia tree in the front yard is about to flower--the first sign that spring is around the corner.

LinkHALLIE EPHRON: Rhys, I'd love to hear more about your painting. A future blog? With pictures?? My only non-word past-time is cooking. Oh yeah, and eating.

Winter. Actually I don't mind it so much in January. (It's March when I really get sick to death of it.) And the days are getting noticeably longer -- yesterday at 4:00 it was still light out. On the down side, it's getting COLDER (8 degrees yesterday morning).

My remedies: Yes soup! Last night chicken vegetable from the leftovers of a roast chicken. Left over leftovers for lunch today. Appreciating the stars in a winter sky -- when it's really cold the night sky is gorgeous. Drinking sherry before dinner. Sleeping under piles of blankets and not getting woken up by early sun.

Hot baths. We have a big old bathtub that we just had resurfaced in our never-upgraded 1920s bathroom. It's my favorite piece of furniture in the house, if you can count a bathtub as furniture.

Best of all: time to write. January and February are blessedly slow months for me in terms of events and I'm on a tear.

JAN BROGAN: I agree with Hallie, January and February are usually my most productive months. And to be truthful, winter has been so mild compared to last year that I don't even feel like I need a remedy. But home-made soup -- I made a killer Portuguese Kale soup last week - and a crackling fireplace are definitely at the top of my list. Perhaps reading by the fireplace is at the tippy top. And right now I'm reading Moby Dick for the first time and am shocked that I am crazy about it.

The best part of winter? I love those days that are so cold and so snowy that you feel completely justified not going outdoors all day. Completely housebound. That's what I New Englander I've become. And then there is Downton Abbey and Doc Martin, so really, who needs summer?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, great idea! Let's see.

I won't mention shopping. But there are a lot of sales right now. And I have a new purse which was 1. on sale and 2. I had POINTS and as a result, the purse was free. Free! Now THAT is shopping.

I won't mention football, but it's a fun time to be from New England.

Birthdays! My husband's birthday is this month. (And my step-grandson Eli, who is so clever that he figured out Jonathan is eight times older than he is. Is that weird, or what?) And it makes me think about birthdays..we celebrate them-because it means we are glad that person was born. Right? So that is SO nice.

Watching the snow, through the moonlight, from cozy inside. I ask you.

Counting blessings. Always a good thing.

DEBS: Lucy, for someone who just wrote a book about rowing, I can't believe I left out sports! Soup, yes, Hallie! I'm roasting a chicken next week and am going to make your chicken soup. (I think, by the way, that when we give our Edwardian dinner party, that Hallie should be in charge of the menu...) And bathtubs--we have old roll top tubs. Heaven when it's cold, once you get the blasted cast iron warm. Rhys, I want to hear more about your painting, too. Jan, thanks for reminding me about Doc Martin. And I've never read Moby Dick, I blush to admit. Another book for the TBR. Hank, I love the image of moonlight on snow.

And counting blessings.

It was 75 degrees here in Texas the last couple of days. Blissful winter weather, right? Then, last night, the low was 27. I'm going to add quilts and my down comforter to my list, a few snuggly dogs and cats, and buy a good bottle of sherry to sip before dinner.

What about you, our friends and readers? How do you combat the winter blues?


  1. We combatted the winter blues by moving to Florida 13 years ago. Whenever I get a little crabby/morose, I pull out pictures of the year I was 6 months pregnant with our first child, and we had record breaking snows. Streets were completely blocked and we had to WALK to the liquor store. (not for me, for hubby :) ) On our walk, we passed the National Guard trying to get someone out of the house for her dialysis treatment. My hubby had to help them. We moved 2 years later. No winter has seemed as miserable since then.

    Of course this isn't helping you all at all...except if you all were to move here. :)

  2. I don't mind the cold weather. And after all the revelry of December I'm happy to get back to eating and drinking like a (relatively) normal person.

    Only a few gigs and this year I didn't register for Left Coast, Love is Murder, Murder in Magic City and VABook so I have a clean slate until April. Which I why I've started to look at houses. It's insane. I have a perfectly lovely (small) house - but I found a nicer one and we're seriously considering it. If it happens, I won't be making soup and sitting by the fire with Moby Dick. I'll be wondering whether or not I should pack the 10 year old gardening magazines and whether I need to keep the badges from every show I've ever been to.

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  4. You do have a perfectly lovely house Ro, and how can you leave your beautiful gardens?

    (See, this is another reason I don't garden, except for herbs, and I'd have a hard time leaving even them)

    But we also indulge in house shopping. Actually my husband goes, finds something he loves, makes me see it and I reject. It's a pattern we've developed which must make the poor real estate agents crazy. But it does make winter interesting.

    I forgot to mention tennis. I play a lot of tennis in winter. Indoors. I'd play outdoors if I lived in Florida.

    Lora, we will try not to be too jealous of your fabulous weather!

  5. ...watching tennis. Australian open...up all night watching men in shorts.

    (The garden would be the hardest thing to leave. After 20 years it's finally starting to come along!)

  6. Hmmmm. How to stave off SAD-ness?

    Perusing seed catalogs for the vegetable garden. Reading all the Christmas books. Watching the football playoffs. And yup, making soup. Or chili. Or chowder.

    We have a Sunday beach walk tradition, no matter what the weather. This past Sunday was intensely cold and windy, but we walked anyway and felt virtuous the rest of the day. Most weeks I post a photo of the beach scene on my blog,

  7. You are all so smart-- Books! Knitting! Soup! Writing! Baths!

    I too love those days when I can completely justify staying inside all day (and, um, sometimes not getting out of my PJs). I'd say football, too, except I'm still recovering from the debacle that was the Green Bay Packer game on Sunday (the only bright spot was when my son texted me that he was "in disbelief", he spelled "disbelief" correctly).

    I always say that living in the Midwest makes me appreciate good weather, so there's that, too. I actually love snow--but I hate cold gray rain.

    Baking cookies helps, too.

  8. Brenda, I'm with you on beach walking in winter. Last year right after the blizzard/hurricane we walked the beach. It was like a moonscape with the snow piled 6 feet high at the edge of the road.

    My daughter gave me fur ear muffs. Love them!

  9. Jan, your Portuguese Kale soup sounds wonderful. What's in it besides kale?

    And Hank, if you have any points left I really, really need a new purse.

    I've been combatting the winter blues by knitting--which I haven't done in years. I'm making a mini Matt Lauer. (Seriously.)

  10. Baking whole-wheat bread, an all-day affair, using the Tassajara Bread Book recipe, four loaves at a time. The 20-minute kneading session alone heats you up. Then the house is warm and smells pleasantly of yeast for hours, topped off by being able to sink your teeth into a thick crusty slice with butter. Come on up to Ipswich Saturday afternoon if you want a taste.

  11. Ooh, Edith, I'm a bread baker, too. But I have two different, very good, recipes for no-knead bread. One is a whole wheat loaf for sandwiches/toast that makes four loaves; the other makes the tastiest boule I've ever had. They go well with the soups that are staples for us in the wintertime: chili, 10-vegetable soup, bean soup, potato soup, white bean provencal.

    I can't take the cold, so whatever warms me up is good: sitting with a book with a giant fleece over me and a cup of hot tea, or sitting in front of a roaring fire with a book and a cup of hot tea, depending on whether we're at home or at our farm. I guess you could say I hibernate! With books. And tea.

    Doc Martin is a recent obsession. Then I found Kingdom, which is also an amazing British TV show, this one starring the inestimable Stephen Fry. I've been watching them on Hulu, in case you also want to get sucked right in. :-)

  12. Oh yes, Hallie. I forgot baths. I long for a big bathtub like we used to have in England instead of this miserable little foot high thing.

    When I'm in CA I belong to a health club and enjoy the spa every afternoon.

    And painting--I'm currently doing a lot of watercolor because it's a medium I have yet to master. Already love oils and pastels. And pen sketching on vacation.

  13. Karen in Ohio, I don't know about Kingdom; but if it's anything like Doc Martin, I'm on it.
    Winter's never too bad in NW Louisiana--at least, compared to what some of you have. We had that 75 degrees a couple of day ago, as well. Hoping the warm weather will make my 1015 onions grow faster. (1015s are sweet onions developed by Texas A&M.)
    Baking bread is one of joys of winter, too, plus making soup and chili. Today, I'm cooking Spanish rice for lunch before heading to the library for work. I cook the rice in oven, using an old recipe that I've had since high school home economics. (That was a long time ago.)
    Reading, as always, keeps me happy. Just finished "The Sense of An Ending" and now starting on "Death Comes to Pemberley."
    Waiting for Deborah's new book. Excited about that.
    Hey, it won't be long before the first daffodils are popping up. Yeah!

  14. Edith, I would like an all-day affair, too. Sadly, pickings are slim in these parts.

    I miss New England (just in case no one has noticed). I combat this by reading books set back home. It really does help, a lot.

    One of the most effective things I do, though, is have someone come to clean the whole house. Then we have friends over. It's like an after-the-holidays holiday. They love it. We love it. Not sure why it's so popular, but everyone always comes. We keep it simple with warm and warming drinkies and finger foods from Whole Foods. Really nothing special. We try to make our friends the focus, and we catch up.

  15. No winter blues here (I live about 40 miles south of D.Crombie). Winter in north Tx is great (it's not 107°)! Take a walk OUTside, do some yard work; throw the quilt layers on the floor & pin the next sandwich, glory in the colors & texture of fabric & batting. Now, summer - that's a different story; I get summer SAD, hide inside the house w/ the curtains closed & the a/c turned down, read books. But today it's winter & it's Glorious! Pass the Dr.Pepper: we're having a quilting party.

  16. Pass the Dr. Pepper! Sounds like a party, Sandy!

  17. This is the first year I have not minded the cold weather. I have a great excuse to get more writing accomplished. I am finally getting into my writing rhythm as a newbie, and the wintry days coerce me to focus.

    I also get to catch up on my TBR pile, drink lots of hot tea, and cuddle on the couch with the hubby for our fave TV shows (catching up on Chuck) and Bond movies. :)

  18. Reine, your parties sound lovely. Brenda, I love the winter beach walks too - the sun is so low in the sky, all the colors are different - very periwinkle, And the winter shifts the sunset to South Beach on the Vineyard, so it makes for an awesome late afternoon walk. Karen, after we are finished with Doc Martin, which should be this week, I'll see if Netflix has Kingdom - thanks for the tip.


    here's my recipe for Portuguese Kale soup (with apologies to the Portuguese because I've adulterated it.

    ! head fresh Kale or a mix of Kale and arugla (which actually tastes just a teensy bit better)
    1/2 ring of Linguica sausage cut into small chunks.
    1 whole onion sauteed in olive oil with just a half teaspoon of butter.
    32 ounces chicken broth
    2-3 potatoes peeled and diced
    1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
    1/2 cup red wine
    salt to taste.

    I throw it all in the slow cooker and let it cook all day.

  19. Oh, for clarity sake, the onion is chopped, not whole.

  20. Call me crazy in the Northeast, but I'm sipping coffee from a mug that says, "Let It Snow," while I write. I did open the drapes and let the sun in. Too bad the cold wind ruined everything once I stepped outside. Dog got a very short walk today!

  21. Jan, that sounds really good. And a great way to use kale, which is so good for us.

    Is the sausage hard to find, and can some other type be substituted?


    Kingdom takes place in another obscure part of England, with almost equally lovely scenery as Doc Martin has. Every episode has a mystery, but the first season has a mystery running throughout, too.

  22. You guys are making me hungry! Alas, I've still got a couple of Christmas pounds to lose, which means I'll need to take care of my SAD with a snowshoe tromp -- now that the white stuff is finally piling up.

    Loving hearing about the TV shows and movies you're catching up on. We just stumbled, via Netflix, on a fun British series, mid 90s, called Pie in the Sky. Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon) plays a police detective who's trying to retire and open a restaurant. Of course, it's making me hungry, too. ...

  23. Jan, the soup sounds delicious. And with prepared sausage easy to fix - always on the lookout for that! Confession, though . . . I've never had kale or arugula. One of my aunts used to make a similar soup with italian sweet sausage and spinach.

  24. Reine, Sandy, I want your parties! Reine, I'm going to give a post-holiday party like yours next year.

    Jan, I made a wonderful white bean and sausage soup with tender little organic kale leaves from Whole Foods. Delish. Hubby wouldn't eat it. Back to spinach.

    Reine, in the UK arugula is called "rocket" and is used on almost every salad. I LOVE it. It has a slightly bitter, spicy, peppery taste that is like nothing else. You can get very good, often organic arugula in TX in good supermarkets or Whole Foods. Better in winter than in our summer heat.

  25. Karen, I'm going to look for Kingdom. He's a lawyer, I think, in the series?

  26. Yes, Kingdom is a lawyer, originally partnered with his brother, who is mysteriously missing, presumed dead, from the beginning of the series. I've only watched four of them, so far, but got hooked with the very first one. Terribly addictive.

    The junior clerk is hilariously funny, and gets wet in every episode.

  27. Deb, thanks for the tips!

    Karen, another confession: I never heard of Kingdom or . . . what was that other show? I need to stay in more. [ :) ]

  28. As the sun go to sleep later each day, I have time to walk a bit after work,not for exercice but take a load of fresh air and watch the beautiful nature around.That is when it isn't colder than -15C.
    If so, I like reading by the fireplace, make and eat soup.
    But what I'm looking forward are my 4 weeks vacations (1 at the end of january and 3 at end of march):some planning to do.

  29. Reine, you'd enjoy Doc Martin.

  30. Karen, does it have anything to do with those scary boots?

  31. Reine, the wonderful Martin Clunes plays a curmudgeonly London surgeon who develops a phobia to the sight of blood, and moves to a village in Cornwall to take over a general practice. He does NOT get all warm and fuzzy. Very funny, good writing, great characters.

  32. Hey, Deb- thanks. Sounds like something I will like!

  33. Oh, Reine, by any chance do you happen to miss New England?! (This is something I sort of picked up on after many months of reading your comments at one blog or another:-)

    I have to laugh at all the people who try to justify staying in during the winter. I HATE winter and I HATE staying in, no matter what the season. I'm just not the kind of person who is ever happy being at home. I'm happiest when AWAY from the house and if I have no other reason to leave the house, I will go out to a bookstore or the library. Being cooped up in the house due to snowy or icy conditions is just so frustrating! I will read (of course) but have trouble concentrating if it seems that there is no end in sight for the snow and I have to start thinking about whether or not I will be able to shovel all that white stuff that is piling up. (I'm not supposed to shovel snow, a tough limitation to have to live with here in New England. I dread every snowflake!!!)

    I DO love to bake cookies and to make soup, but I do that all year round!

    So I cope with winter by daydreaming about summer! Ah, there is no finer season!

    (Lora,would like a houseguest for the winter?)

  34. Hi Anonymous,

    I only like the snow while it's still white. How long is that? About an hour and a half in the city? And, of course, the winter generally grounds my wheelchair, but I still like it. I don't know why.

    Oh guess what. I wrote a paper on one of your poems in 7th grade. Mr. Grassia gave me an A. Thanks for all that terrific poetry.

  35. Just realized I didn't give my name on my comment - I am not really Anonymous - I am Deb Romano and I STILL hate winter!