Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Eight Good Things for January

It's January! Are you ready for it?

January can be a difficult month for us far northerners: the short days (yes, they're getting longer, but you can't tell yet), the brutal wind, the frigid temps. Plus, it's a long month with nary a holiday between New Year's and the onset of February. (MLK Day is nice, but it doesn't typically involve decorations, special meals, or parties.)

But this year, believe it or not, there are some things I'm psyched about right now, in January--some more trivial than others, but all on my mind these days.

Downton Abbey. (Or, as my girls call it, "Downtown Abbey.") Christopher and I started watching the back seasons of this wonderful PBS series on DVD this past autumn, and are primed and ready for the premiere of Season Three on actual television beginning January 6.

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Good cooking. There's nothing like brutally cold weather to make cozy, hot suppers feel like the best things ever. It's like giving my family a warm hug at the end of the day (in addition to the actual hugs, I mean). Plus, after the nutritional-desert, sugar-overload of the holidays, healthy and nourishing food is more appealing than ever. I'm excited to make all sorts of hearty new recipes and old favorites: chicken enchiladas, corn and cheese chowder, gypsy soup, homemade rolls, huevos rancheros, spinach quiche and vegetarian chili with cornbread crust. And, because I wouldn't want anyone to suffer complete sugar-withdrawal-shock, and because I believe in homemade desserts, I'll probably throw in the Pioneer Woman's strawberry oatmeal bars and my friend Trish's amazing-sounding sweet-and-salty gingersnaps at some point. (An aside: I have four friends named Tricia or Trisha. It is very confusing.) Because a family cannot live on nutrient-rich dishes alone, can they?

Painting the bathroom. OK, I'm not at all excited about the work involved in painting our master bath, which has needed painting since, um....the house was built 11 years ago. (We've lived here for seven.) It may be more accurate to say that I'm psyched about having painted the bathroom, when I'm all done doing it.

This great book my friend Connie gave me for Christmas. I've been reading the short essays about life in Alaska by author and NPR commentator Heather Lende, and they are charming and entertaining--just what one needs to curl up with next to the fireplace on a chilly winter evening. Not only does Alaskan weather make January in MN seem remarkably temperate, Heather Lende writes beautifully about the daily domestic and community activities that make up the life of a stay-at-home mom of school-aged children in a small town.

This book gave me a boost of validation about my life as an at-home mom, and about the fact that I feel called, as Heather Lende does, to do the work of raising a family and running a home. With all the spending, bills, and tight money of the holiday season, along with the fact that a couple of my mom friends are either returning to work in some way or actively planning for it, I've been feeling anxious about loving my life as a non-income-producing at-home mom. But who wants to feel anxious about loving their life??? That's just wrong. Even though Heather's book is about much more than motherhood and family life--and you definitely don't have to be a mom or housewife to enjoy it--it's a much-needed reminder that a homemaker's work takes time and energy and is worthy of great respect, even if it doesn't draw a paycheck and even if the larger world doesn't always respect it.

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This other great book that my friend Connie lent me last month. Wow, just wow. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, is a big book, and it took me a long time to get through because I don't have tons of time to read. I made my way a few pages at a time. But it is jaw-dropping and marvelous. This is the kind of novel I cannot even imagine dreaming up. How does someone even think of a story like this? I do not know. And yes, I've already read it, so I guess technically I can't be psyched about it for January. But I'm psyched about it for you. Because I highly recommend that you read it. Now.

Ice skating on our pond. The pond at the end of our street--just a few houses down from us--isn't actually our own, private pond. But it feels like it, because it's so close, and because a couple of local dads cleared it off for ice skating (we do that in Minnesota), and they even put a bench at the edge for sitting and lacing up skates. As a lifelong skater, I love the idea of being able to take the girls skating after school any afternoon we like--and have the rink be just seconds away.

Running--some of the time. Listen, running outdoors in January in Minnesota is killer. I do it, but it's an exercise in toughness (both mental and physical). But there are times when the snow is falling peacefully and the temperature isn't too deadly, when a winter run is lovely. And the fact that I've been away from exercise for a good ten to twelve days due to a cold/flu virus means that I'm itching to get out and do my favorite activity. I'm also looking forward to taking my girls to the indoor track at the college where my husband works--we get into the rec center there for free, as staff family--to run around when it's just too cold to go out and the kidlets are going stir crazy. Circling a track is a lot less boring when you're doing it as play with your kiddos.

Les Miserables--on film. You all, I'm one of those musical-theatre-geek, Les Mis-obsessed people who have seen the show many times and can sing the entire soundtrack by heart. From the second I heard that Les Miserables was being made into a film--one true to the show, with 100% sung dialogue--I've been dying to see it on the big screen. The fact that it's getting a ton of Oscar buzz--and that it stars Hugh Jackman--is all the better. It opened on Christmas Day, but I haven't seen it yet because my virus interfered with our family's planned trip to the grandparents' (who were going to do babysitting duty so we could go to the movies). But we've rescheduled, the free babysitting offer stands, and I'm counting on this movie still playing when we drive north in a few weeks. I have a box of Kleenex ready. I can't wait.

Those are the things brightening up my winter days this month. What would you add to the list?


tricia*kushman*anderson said...

I am reading Ann Patchett right now and loving it! It is the first book that has held my attention since mom died. I read Bel Canto years ago and loved AP's style and slightly off-kilter stories! ENJOY! HAPPY NEW YEAR! I'm convinced 2013 will be better than last year......I mean how can it NOT be? REALLY!

Rob Hardy said...

I adore Ann Patchett. She is my favorite living novelist. If I could write like anyone, it would be her. I loved The Magician's Assistant and Run. I am told that she has her flaws, but I am blind to them!