My post-holiday Winter Fun List and a belated December Books List

Today's post is a bit of a catch-all before my time logs go up next week. Yes, I am hosting another 168 Hours Time-Tracking Challenge! You can download a time log here if you'd like to play along. You can sign up to receive daily motivational emails here.

Anyway, I decided to make a short winter fun list. I really am not that into winter. The kids get sick and I get sick. My skin is dry. I'm cold all the time. I can't run outside many days with the snow and sleet and darkness that descends at 4:30 p.m. Christmas is lovely, but then there are 10-12 long weeks until the daffodils emerge in March (and the time change gives us another hour of evening light).

So, in the interest of preserving my sanity, I decided to make a winter fun list of activities that might make me enjoy the season. Not all are winter-related (some are about escaping winter!) but some are. Here we go:

Get outdoor physical activity daily. Even if it's just jumping up and down on the porch, I want to get outside and see daylight during the 9 hours per day the sun is actually up. To this end, I used the Athleta gift card my mother-in-law gave me to purchase more cold weather running gear. But even if I'm running on the treadmill, I can play in the snow with my kids, or walk around the yard or the neighborhood or something.

Run outside in California. I've got two California trips in those 10 winter weeks. I took one to San Francisco this week, and got in a gorgeous before breakfast run on the Embarcadero (after waking up at 2:30 a.m. due to the EARTHQUAKE - whoa. I dreamed a child was shaking me. Then I woke up and realized I was actually shaking). I plan to likewise run outside when I'm back in late February. Escaping to at least slightly warmer weather feels magical when the temperatures dip to -2 on the home front.

Take a dip in an outdoor hot tub. I'll be at a ski resort another weekend during this time, and I know that the hotel features a big hot outdoor pool. I plan to spend some time enjoying the exquisite contrast of a very warm body, and a very cold nose. Also, an adult beverage. It will likely be 10 a.m. because that's when my children will be in ski school and I will be totally fine with it.

Visit the orchid show at Longwood Gardens. Beautiful orchids, plus a warm green house. What's not to like? I also plan to go to the Flower show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, though that happens in mid-March (kind of still winter). I might do this on a weekday and have lunch at the Reading Terminal.

Light candles and drink tea. I've been getting into this Bengali tea that Celestial Seasonings makes (so it's sold in grocery stores). Sweet and warming. I've never been a big candle person, but I think lighting one on my desk might make me feel more cozy and creative.

Go to a basketball game. I'm not quite sure how this will work out, as the 76-ers tickets sold out before I got around to buying them (the team was so bad the last few years that there were always tickets available). Probably there are re-sellers. Villanova is great though they often sell out too. We shall see!

Embrace TV. Yes, I’m going to watch more TV during the next 10 weeks because hey, Winter Olympics! Super Bowl! Basketball! And I am not going to feel bad about it at all!

And here's a very-belated Books Read in December list:

A Writer's Diary, by Virginia Woolf

After Woolf drowned herself in early 1941, her husband Leonard compiled selections from Woolf's extensive journals that dealt with her writing process. She fretted over every publication. She rejoiced in the financial stability that came from best-sellers. She gave herself timelines for writing, and then for re-writing (and re-copying in the pre-computer era). She often blew through her deadlines when the manuscript was particularly speaking to her. The writing stuff was interesting, though I actually thought the notes from her last two years, as Great Britain was falling into war and the bombs were falling daily, were more poignant. Woolf clearly felt like her world was falling apart, which may have been the reason she loaded those stones in her pocket and walked into the river.

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

I mentioned this as one of my most memorable books of the year. Anne Bogel had recommended it when I was a guest on What Should I Read Next? There are plenty of flaws with this book: the main character in the first half who disappears in the second, an unlikeable narrator, etc. But it's still a compelling read about a young man's obsession with a wealthy old British family, just as such old families were being swept up by the modern world. I can't quite explain it, but clearly other people have felt the same way, which explains why the book has been given a home on the list of best novels in the English language.

Autumn, by Ali Smith

Bogel suggested this along with Brideshead Revisited in the "literary matchmaking" portion of WSIRN. Smith follows a friendship between a lonely girl (later woman - she reappears in her early 30s) who befriends an elderly neighbor who her single mother sometimes foists her off on. It was…OK. I liked parts but the bits about Brexit and the Sisyphean nature of fighting the British bureaucracy just didn't do it for me. If I want to read about politics, I'll go back to reading the newspaper (which I've been avoiding) and honestly, these bits felt tacked on, like Smith knew a Brexit mention would give her contemporary cred. Maybe they'll matter in later books in this quartet (Winter comes next. Then, I imagine, Spring and Summer).

Heating and Cooling, by Beth Ann Fennelly

This book of 52 "micro-memoirs" is yet another Anne Bogel recommendation, this time from when she was a guest on Best of Both Worlds (seriously, if you want book recommendations for the next year, listen to that and my episode of WSIRN and you will be SET). This was her answer to the question of what someone who wasn't really reading should try reading first. The memoirs are incredibly short — sometimes as short as a few lines, but rarely more than a few pages. They are quirky and poignant. While I've read better memoirs, it was entertaining — good if you have a train or plane ride (or karate class) and are looking to pass the time.

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk, by Kathleen Rooney

I wanted to like this book, as many people had mentioned enjoying it. Lillian Boxfish, once a star ad writer for Macy's and glamorous gal about town, is now in her 80s, and figuring out how to spend New Year's Eve. She walks all around her longtime home of New York City, revisiting moments of her life as she does. I found this a bit hard to get into. Lillian is interesting, and tragic and triumphant at the same time. She also reminds me quite a bit of a few older New York ladies I met during my time there. But Rooney is heavy-handed in her foreshadowing. We know that Macy's requires women to quit when they have children, and we know Lilian had a child, so we know she'll have to leave the job she loves. We know the marriage fell apart, which makes it hard to share her infatuation with her husband when she meets him. We are even shown her counting her money in her wallet in a convenience store — too much cash, she notes! — and she belabors that she's never been mugged, so…guess where this is going (if the mugging itself is more entertaining than most victims would describe the experience).

So that was December. On to January!

Photo: From run #1 in California

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12 Responses to My post-holiday Winter Fun List and a belated December Books List


  1. Phil says:

    Laura, you might look into a women’s collegiate basketball game as well. Usually not as hot a ticket and those teams will play in the Big Dance as well. The marketing people at those games usually make them very family friendly and fun!

    • @Phil- definitely an option! And I just looked and there are available tickets for Villanova. So I’ll be able to figure something out.

  2. Meghan says:

    I put more tv on my list for winter, too! I feel like there’s actually so much great tv being made right now that’s possibly more artful than some of the books I read to unwind, and maybe I could manage to finish the sweater I’ve been knitting for the last 5 years. I got the Virginia Woolf book for Christmas and can’t wait to dive in, too. My ideal schedule is creative writing early in the morning, work-work from 10-2, and time to just read and research until 4 or so, and I’m going to try to really make that happen this year. Now if only I knew how to survive the “the kids get sick and I get sick” stage — I feel like I’ve been here since the beginning of December, and I wash my hands so much they’re cracking.

    • @Meghan – it may interest you to know that I have a cross-stitched stocking, half done since about 1992, sitting in my office. I’m pondering picking it back up. It may happen. It may not. But the sweater you’ve been knitting for 5 years has nothing on that!

      • Meghan says:

        Ha! It could happen — when I was pregnant with my first child, my mom dug out the cross-stitch alphabet sampler she started when she was pregnant with me … and finished when I was 13. I love it even more because of its story!

  3. ARC says:

    If you want to swing by Sacramento on your Feb California trip we could go to a Kings game. We’re about to buy a package of tickets for this season and next 🙂 The games are SO FUN, way better than the NFL. 🙂

    • @ARC – back in the San Fran area, or otherwise I would be all over that!

  4. Cb says:

    Oh I thought for sure you’d like Autumn but I work in British politics so perhaps the discussion felt more natural for me as a reader. You might like Winter better, I didn’t like it quite as much but read it during my baby’s four month sleep regression so found the narrative a bit hard to follow.

    Maybe basketball games at a smaller uni? I went to a small college in California with a great basketball team and the games were very fun.

    • @Cb – I may check out winter. I mean, Autumn wasn’t horrible – just not really my cup of tea.

    • June says:

      I have not read Autumn, but I thought your comment about throwing in Brexit to seem contemporary was interesting. I’m not a fan of when a book contains too many contemporary issues or devices, because it can date a book, which in some ways limits its shelf life. That said, I do think the language of books should reflect their times. However, I’m not ready to start opening novels and reading text exchanges rather than dialogue, so I have limits on that too!

  5. Katherine says:

    I am also an avid runner, much prefer running on our outdoor mountain trails, and live in Montana, so I use stabilicer cleats (don’t affect your gait), gaiters to attach to your shoes and keep snow off, merino running pants, and a merino buff for my face. In the dark, I use a headlamp. Keeps me running pretty much year-round. Some people look at me like I’m nuts, but you seem like the type of person who would appreciate this gear:)

    • @Katherine – I do appreciate the gear! Since I’m running on roads most of the time, the problem is less the snow than the drivers in the snow who often act like it’s the first time they’ve ever encountered such precipitation. Today will likely be a treadmill day just because of timing. I could run outside this afternoon – I think the roads will be clear – but I have other stuff going on.

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