3 Things I Learned this Winter

The winter months can be more dark than light, more gray than yellow, more bare branches than flowers, more rain than sun. We might spend more time indoors than out in nature, more than we like.

I move around the house in my long, chunky sweater and sheepskin slippers making fires in the fireplace, lighting candles in the middle of the day and putting the kettle on.

Winter is a season when we especially need creativity, signs of life and fresh ideas. A surprise snow is falling from the sky as I write this to you. I am looking for warmth in my body and my soul.

Here are three bright lessons I learned this winter season.

Hands-on bulletin boards still work their soulful magic.

When I was a teenage girl, I had a bulletin board in my bedroom filled with photos, magazine cut-outs, dried flowers and ticket stubs. The cork surface was a kind of scrapbook page, a toasty canvas. Whenever the handmade collage looked frayed or the season changed or a boy broke my heart, I would spend hours listening to music while crafting a new one on my bulletin board. My favorite things back in the 1970's, along with Bonne Bell Lip Smackers (the jumbo ones) and peasant blouses, were found clipping out De Beer's "A diamond is forever" ads while listening to the Eagles.

We might have Pinterest now, but there is still something about hands-on clipping from magazines images and significant words in all shapes and sizes, arranging them overlapping and just so, and finally, pushing a tack into a cork board that is both therapeutic and inspiring. I suppose that tactile process is still a way of framing my thoughts, emotions and dreams.

The two petite boards pictured above are for a writing piece I am working on. They are more mood boards than the scrapbook-style I did as a teenager. They hang above a window seat in my writing room and remind me of the work God is doing in my life, in this case from a particular dramatic event.

This time I took scissors to the glossy pages of Darling Magazine and Patagonia catalogs while listening to Ryan Adams. It still amazes me the magic that this process works in my soul even now. I guess a part of our hearts are always our young girl hearts.

How to keep fresh cilantro fresh.

Fresh cilantro is one of my favorite herbs. I love the bright green leaves and the faint smell of citrus it leaves on your hands when you chop, both welcome signs of spring on the dark days of winter.

Plus, I usually know that cumin is just around the corner which in our house means I'm making a Tex-Mex or Thai dish.

My problem has always been how to store cilantro for very long without the leaves turning black and slimy. After one use, I would find the blackened bag buried under other produce.

Thanks to Kendra over at www.thelazygeniuscollective.com, I have solved both of those problems.

I rinse and drain my little bunch of cilantro. Then pretend they are a bouquet of flowers: trim the stem ends, fill a small pitcher with fresh tap water (little creamers are great for that and I happen to have a few), place your cilantro in the water, cover with a baggie and refrigerate.

Voila! You'll find it in your refrigerator and it will be fresh for 7-10 days.

I have only been cooking for my family for 32 years and I did not know this. I have already passed this tip along to all of the Whippersnappers and my Daddy. The men in our family are the vegetable gardeners and pico-de-gallo chefs.

My tips:

  • I discovered, like flowers, I could trim and refresh the water after about 4-5 days and get longer life out of my cilantro.

*The little perforated bag cilantro comes in at Trader Joe's makes the perfect covering for my cilantro bouquet.

A word about The Lazy Genius collective. Kendra's tagline is "Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't." Now that's genius. Kendras'Instagram stories are about the only ones I watch. I usually come away with ridiculous laughter and a good practical tip I can use in things I am already doing: cooking, grocery shopping, birthday parties and keeping a bullet journal.

Jelly jars make the best wine glasses.

I learned this lesson the hard way.

Our dishwasher sprung a leak, the finest mist you could never see. Water slipped quietly between the old wooden floorboards to the underlayment until the floor buckled at the kick plate. There was never a puddle on the floor. Still, the damage was there, invisible, underneath.

The whole kitchen had to be packed up and moved to the garage so the warped floorboards could be replaced and the floors refinished. Late that Friday night, after the water mitigation team had secured the leak and effectively rendered the kitchen unusable, over take-out tacos, I went to pour a glass of wine. No wine glasses. They were in a stack of boxes in the garage, on the bottom of course. I grabbed a jelly jar from an upper cabinet and poured a petite glass.

Now that the kitchen is back in the cabinets, there is a line of jelly jars (the faceted kind) in one corner that have new shine and purpose.

The funny thing about all of these winter lessons is that they sprung from something old or previous, a kind of renewal, a return. And paying attention. I suppose what I am really learning is to keep looking for Spring.

But we still have the Lenten season to go before spring truly arrives, so until then, may these lessons help you pay attention and brighten your day on the way to Easter.

These "Things I Learned" posts are a link-up with Emily P. Freeman where a whole community of writers share lessons from their lives. It has recently changed from once-a-month to once-a-season - a very good rhythm.

My last lessons post was 3 Things I Learned this Fall.