Winter can be a wonderful time of year, but it can also leave you wondering why you live in a region where it can be so cold and snowy. If you are or you have found yourself becoming, a person who likes winter less and less, do not despair. There are so many things that you can do to combat the winter blues and find joy in the season. For some quick safety tips and ideas to make winter wonderful, or at least tolerable again, keep reading.

Color your world!

Finding ways to add a variety of vibrant colors to the bright white of winter can be as easy as water and food coloring. This inexpensive project is a great way to add pops of color to your outdoor areas! With a little extra planning, this can also be a fun and educational activity for kids to help with. Let your little helpers use a measuring cup to see how many cups it takes to fill the bowls. They can mix different colors together to see what color the mixtures make and for older kids you can talk about how the change in temperatures can turn a liquid into a solid!

What you will need:
o Tap water
o Food coloring (gel not recommended)
o Metal or plastic bowls and/or water balloons
o Rubber gloves (optional)
o Newspaper, an old towel or paper towels in case of spills

o Lay down a layer of newspaper or towel/ paper towel in case of spills as some food coloring will cause staining.
o If you are worried about staining your hands you can use rubber gloves. Food coloring does not typically cause any long term staining and will wash off with a bit of effort.
o If children are helping with this activity, I do recommend putting on play clothing or an old T-shirt over their clothing.
o Add food coloring of your choice to your bowl or put several drops into your water balloon prior to filling. Food coloring typically comes in primary colors so you can mix colors together to make other colors you want. For example, blue and red will make purple.
o Mix the coloring in the water by stirring with a fork or whisk. If using balloons, simply give it a shake once the end is tied.
o Set containers and/or balloons outside overnight. If the temperature outside is not below freezing for at least 12 hours, you may need to leave them longer before removing the ice from the container.
o Once your colored water is fully frozen and removed from its container, arrange in an area you can see and enjoy them. I put mine along the back of my deck and some along my front steps and added lights so that I could enjoy them at night as well.

 

We all know winter is cold here in Maine, that doesn’t mean we have to be cold!

The key to keeping warm during the winter months is in layers. Dressing in layers is essential for comfort, both indoors and out. By dressing in layers we can allow ourselves to remain comfortable by adding or removing layers as the temperatures change around us. It isn’t just the layers of clothing that keep us warm but also the layers of air that are formed between them so it is best to wear outer layers that are slightly loose fitting. In addition to loose fitting layers, it is important to make sure layers close to the skin remain dry or they will not work. Moisture can come not only from outdoor elements but from sweating. It is important to be aware of the level of activity you (or your young children) are doing and remove layers if you are becoming overheated from your winter fun or exerting yourself by things like shoveling or hauling your child’s sled up the hill for the tenth time.

Travel with safety!

While many of us have been limiting our travel plans to short adventures over the past several months, we may find the urge to take a long drive to get out of the house and explore the natural beauty that only winter can offer. Regardless of the length of your trip it is always best to be prepared for the potential of getting stuck. In addition to letting someone know where you intend to go in advance of leaving you can consider some of the following tips to help you be prepared.

What you will need according to the CDC:

o A flashlight (remember to check your batteries often and have extra batteries if possible)
o An ice scraper
o Jumper cables
o A first aid kit
o A compact shovel
o Extra blankets (I recommend wool blankets if you can find them, unlike cotton and other fibers, wool will continue to provide insulating warmth even when soaking wet)
o Bottled water
o Fully charged cell phone
o I would also recommend bringing some nonperishable snack foods such as granola bars or trail mix as well as a container of coarse sand or cat litter to help if you become stuck on an icy spot.

For more winter safety tips from the CDC, visit their website.

Feeling blue? Grow something green!

When winter feels like it will never end and may be getting you down, getting or growing something green can be a great way to fight back. Indoor plants can be addictive but they offer up a variety of benefits like helping to improve your indoor air quality. Growing houseplants can also be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby. If you are not already a plant lover or are worried that you may not have a green thumb, there are several things to consider before you purchase some plants for your home. It is usually best to start off small and slowly. Plants can take a lot of care especially when they are getting used to a new environment (your home). Here are some things to consider before you make a plant purchase:

• The lighting in your home will be the first thing you need to think about before you buy a plant since different plants will need different amounts of sun exposure.
• The space you have in your home will help you decide on the size of your plant and the number of plants you may want. For smaller spaces you may want to consider succulents, small cactus or a vining plant that could be hung in the corner like a spider plant or Devil’s Ivy (pothos). For larger spaces you may like a Chinese Evergreen or a Snake plant.
• Plant safety will also need to be at the top of your list, especially if you have young children and/or pets that may try to eat your new plant. Some plants are very toxic so you will want to know before you step into the store and fall in love with a particular one.
• Common plant problems can arise whenever you invite plants into your home and you will want to be sure to know how to deal with them or have a handy resource to use for researching if you experience any issues that impact your plants health.
• Think about the types of plant pots you like and can afford. While it may be tempting to just keep your new plant snug in the pot it came in, this can be problematic. Plants purchase in stores are often root bound and may be potted in substandard potting mix that will not meet the needs of a growing plant for very long. It is best to repot new plants so please consider what your options are. Plant pots can be very expensive but finding a happy new home does not need to cost a fortune. Pots will often times be placed on clearance and if the timing is not right for this you can consider repurposing other containers you may already have available. If you repurpose a container that was not originally intended for plants, be sure to add a hole to the bottom or at least a base of small rocks below the soil.

Go get some fresh air!

We have all undoubtedly been told at one point in our lives “go get some fresh air”. Fresh air is good for our health and not just in terms of breathing. Wintertime often leads to fewer periods of outdoor activity and extended periods of time where our homes may be closed up tight in an effort to keep them warm. It is important to get outdoors (even in the cold) to be able to get in some physical activity and get some fresh air. When you aren’t able to get outside, consider opening a window in your home for a short amount of time. The health benefits of letting the stale air out and some fresh air in will far outweigh the cost of the little bit of heat loss.

A few benefits of fresh air:
o Helps to clear your lungs because it has higher levels of oxygen and lower levels of pollution compared to indoor air.
o Improves your digestion by providing adequate oxygen for both body and mind since sometimes our bodies can be so deprived of oxygen that it competes to accomplish everyday functions.
o Reduces blood pressure not only by increasing oxygen in the blood and reducing the hearts need to pump harder to get oxygen needed throughout the body but also by reducing stress.
o Helping you heal faster. Because oxygen is essential to every cell and every function of our bodies, an increase in oxygen can help our bodies heal more effective and efficiently.

 

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup: Flashback to December’s Blog

When all else fails in combating the winter blues, chicken noodle soup is classic and nothing does the trick better at warming you on a frigid winter day or soothing you when you are not feeling well. This is my personal recipe. For more soup favorites, flashback to my December blog Six Sensational Soups.

What you will need:

o 1 to 1 ½ pounds cooked chicken breast shredded
o Two cups of cooked egg noodles or pasta of your choice (undercook by a minute or two so the noodles do not get too soft in the soup)
o 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
o 1 medium onion, diced
o 2 medium carrots, sliced
o 1 large stalk celery, diced
o ¾ cup frozen peas
o ¾ cup frozen corn or one can corn, drained
o 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
o 1 teaspoon Bells seasoning
o 1 clove garlic
o ½ teaspoon black pepper
o ½ teaspoon dry tarragon (optional)

o In a large pot on medium heat, add vegetable oil, garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Cook for two to three minutes to soften.
o Add stock, Bells seasoning, pepper and tarragon.
o Cover and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook for fifteen minutes.
o Add frozen peas, corn and chicken and cook for another ten minutes. Add Noodles to warm through just before serving.
o Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving.

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