January can be a difficult time of year. After all the excitement of Christmas and new year, for many it can be a rather bleak and depressing month. The weather here in Britain is usually a little on the harsh side and it feels like there’s a long time to wait for a reason to party again.
While I admit to really being more of a summer person, I don’t think January’s really as bad as we all like to make out. You just have to look at things the right way. Accentuate the positive. So here are my reasons to be cheerful this month…
The smell of wood smoke
For me one of the loveliest aspects of living out in the sticks is the smell of wood smoke emanating from across our village on a winter’s day. It is the most perfect smell imaginable and one that makes me smile inside.
A roaring fire
Of course there’s no smoke without fire and who doesn’t love to sit in front of a log fire when it’s cold and damp outside?
Curled up on the sofa with a good book. And a large glass of red wine. It just doesn’t work in the summer.
Cold winter days are the perfect excuse for big hearty pot roasts, warming soups and slow-cooked stews. I recently made a mutton and prune dish, which was just what I needed at the end of a miserable grey day. The recipe’s on my Bangers & Mash blog.
Or how about this tempting beef and barley soup from Karista’s Kitchen? In her blog Karista says:
“Winter is a time of renewal. A time to reflect, a time to rejuvenate, a time to recover. A very wise lady once told me, everyone needs a season of winter.”
It’s true. Winter is the perfect time for a little space to take stock. And make stock.
Of course there’s no reason not to have cuddles all year round but a big bear hug is an ideal way to keep warm.
Feed the birds
My daughters love to put food out in the garden for the birds in the winter. We love to watch our little feathered visitors from the warmth of the living room, while Jessie ticks them off in her bird spotting book.
I’m not really a ‘make do and mend’ sort of woman, but there is something very satisfying about spending a winter’s evening knitting up a funky little number with fat chunky needles and thick fluffy yarn.
Even if it is only a scarf. Like I say; very satisfying.
Winter was invented to allow us to watch brilliant dramas on the box. TV is dire in the summer. I loved Sherlock earlier in the month (no idea how he faked his own death), can’t wait to watch Hustle (recording as I write) and there’s Birdsong at the weekend. Yes I do watch a lot of BBC. One of my first jobs after university was with TV Licensing. I like to get my money’s worth.
Breathing dragon smoke
Children are mesmerised by their ‘smoky’ breath on a cold day. And I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of finding it fascinating either. It’s just quite magical.
The world is transformed with a sugar frosting.
My daughters love to hear stories of Jack Frost being busy that night. They love crunching across frozen lawns and scratching pictures on frozen car windows. And so do I.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
We all return to childhood again when it snows. You must know that sensation of opening the curtains to see a beautifully clean white world; your heart leaping with excitement? When you can’t get to work and school and you’re forced to stay at home, well what else can you do but head outdoors for snowball fights or a spot of sledging.
However January is generally more about rain than snow. As a Brit it’s hard to be positive about rain. Unless you’re a gardener. But when it’s stopped raining for a bit, pull on your wellingtons and go out for a walk. Preferably with kids if you have any to hand. Think Peppa Pig and jump in muddy puddles. Utterly fantastic.
My mum lives in Cordoba in Spain and she supplies us with the best drinking chocolate ever. You simply melt the bar in a pan of hot milk, maybe adding a little grated nutmeg. Drinking liquid chocolate is the most sublime experience I can imagine.
If chocolate’s not your thing (and what planet are you from by the way?), a hot toddie or Irish coffee have similar warming properties.
Chinese New Year
In a few day’s it’ll be Chinese New Year. My mother is half Chinese so I’ll be using this as a very good excuse to celebrate and scoff all my favourite Chinese dishes. Even if you’re not Chinese, get in a takeaway anyway. Gong xi fa cai everyone!
I don’t know about you but I can’t really face baking in the summer, so make the most of the winter and go baking crazy. Cakes, pies, tarts, bread – bring it on!
Get involved in a bake-off. I’m thinking of joining in Amy’s Weekly Bake-Off.
Or how about this? The recipe for probably the best carrot cake in the world.
So there you have it. My list of reasons to keep smiling this month. Don’t just grin and bear it while you wait for things to get warmer. Embrace and enjoy.