I really love the winter, especially in these early weeks, when the cold is bracing but exhilarating, the snow is fresh and pretty and even the most dreadful parking conditions barely detract from the gingery warmth of early December.
It’s always a tricky transition: what to do when faced with such deep wind chills and such early darkness, how to break out of my routines and get my friends out of their routines, whether or not it’s worth excavating the car (with no scraper and crappy wiper blades that haven’t been changed for years — I need to work on that) and the easiest way to turn off the television.
But it’s been a few weeks of white-out weather, depressed thermometers and distance from the sun, and I’m starting to feel that cold winter blood pumping bravely through my veins. Here’s my loose, slushy road map through treacherous seasonal territory:
Watching TV reruns by yourself is sort of boring, but watching TV reruns with a bunch of friends and a six-pack? Infinitely more rewarding. Lately I’ve loved 30 Rock and Flight of the Conchords. Also Iron Chef America, mostly because I have a huge you’re-too-evil-and-slimy-to-be-real crush on Bobby Flay.
I’ve been learning to play the accordion since I bought an old Crucianelli at a gas station in Door County in July, but I’ve really stepped up my game now that it’s too cold to leave my apartment. There have been times in the last few weeks when I’ve been too engrossed in “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” to answer my phone or grab drinks with my friends. Bonus: I’m learning Christmas songs.
Get ready for Christmas
This is probably the first Christmas since I was 13 that I’ve been genuinely excited about. I wish I could tell you why. Maybe it has something to do with watching too much TV, seeing commercial after commercial and holiday special after holiday special, enough to get me thinking that Christmas is a very real thing. Maybe it is also the snow. It could be that I decided early on this year to buy as many holiday wares as possible locally, fairly and preferably handmade. Thanks in large part to Art Vs. Craft and Paperboat Boutique (both brainchildren of local artist Faythe Levine), this year, most everyone in my family is getting something local and handmade, mostly by artists I know personally and adore, and one piece I commissioned from Liz Keuler, a friend and a Fasten Collective designer, for less than $5 (a holiday challenge/pact between my broke self and my broke sister). Even the kids are getting some artfully-made tokens of loveliness and a hopefully-not-too-preachy lesson that sometimes Christmas means more than video games, at least to your grown-up, sentimental, hip-and-conscious Aunt Amy. Relatives who aren’t getting art are getting cheese, bratwurst or craft beer. This is Wisconsin, after all. People expect it of me.
I’ve never sent Christmas cards before, either, and this year I made all of mine myself. I was worried that hand-making my cards with gluesticks and glittery snowflakes would make me look less adult than I actually am these days, but I used mostly recycled materials (clippings from old National Geographics and illustrated science books pasted on some hideous vintage greeting cards I had laying around) and they turned out swell: heartfelt, pretty, quirky.
Get out of the house
When worst comes to worst, it pays to just face it and leave.
Thank God for The Get Down. Nothing beats dancing on a bitter winter night.
Other helpful establishments include Roots, where Blake Leinberger makes a really mean wassail, a hot apple drink that’s creamy, spicy, nourishing and very alcoholic. Roots also boasts one of the most attractive wait and bar staffs in the city.
The County Clare has a fireplace and the good grace of being a few blocks away from my apartment and VITAL’s own Erin Wolf is a regular there. Comet Cafe‘s half-price bottle of wine night on Thursday is a super way to make sure you’re not as cold walking home as you were walking there.
And then there’s The Bremen Cafe, which has over the past few months become that place where everybody knows my name, for better or for worse, and I can always count on knowing at least one sordid face when I walk through the door, tired, cranky, maybe PMSing, maybe very lonely, likely not quite as enchanted with the winter as it seems I am now, always ready for a glass of wine or a mostly-whiskey whiskey soda.
Hats off to you, Bremen Cafe. I miss you down here on the south side.