Things I Actually Like: a list to combat the winter blues

Making pasta dough
Making pasta dough

Winter is a tricky time for many people, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, myself included.  I feel like I spend way too much time being cranky about things in the winter, so to combat that, here are some things I like from this winter to date.

Making fresh pasta.  Mmmmm.  Is there anything more delicious?  I also love it when I am feeling good enough to do things like cook and take care of myself.  So many of my favorite foods are also the simplest.  Isn’t it amazing that flour+eggs turns into the magic that is fresh pasta?

Nerdy nerd in an R2D2 t-shirt!
Nerdy nerd in an R2D2 t-shirt!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (AKA episode VII).  This is me embracing my inner nerd and wearing a sparkly R2D2 t-shirt to the theater for a morning viewing of the latest installment in the Star Wars series.  I liked it so much that it made me less cranky about the travesty that is episodes I through III.

 

 

 

Playing Agricola with ALL the candy. Don't judge me.
Playing Agricola with ALL the candy. Don’t judge me.

Board games!  I’m so lucky to have a partner and friends who also enjoy playing games.  Some of my current favorites include Agricola (pictured), Seven Wonders, Elfenland, Ticket to Ride, and Age of Empires.

We went for a walk on a winter's day.
We went for a walk on a winter’s day.

 

 

Escaping The Desolation of Smog that my home city becomes in the winter months.  Due to a combination of emissions and geography, pollution gets trapped in our valley in the winters and leads to weeks at a time of hideous and unhealthy inversions during which clear skies and air that doesn’t burn when I breathe are a distant memory.  Winter is hard enough without toxic air, so escaping the problem for clearer skies does wonders for my morale.

Sunrise at Arches National Park. So good.
Sunrise at Arches National Park. So good.

Enjoying clear skies and gorgeous sunrises?  Check.  Getting great joy and much entertainment out of my husband’s sartorial choices?  Check (he had a bad cold he didn’t want to share. The bright orange statement pants are a thing of beauty and a joy forever, p.s. they are reversible).

Plague fashion.
Plague fashion.

Other people’s kids and animals.  All of the fun, none of the responsibility.  Winning!

I made some of my small friends fox masks.
I made some of my small friends fox masks.
This guy. So snuggly, and so weird.
This guy. So snuggly, and so weird.

So I don’t run the risk of anyone mistaking me for an easygoing person, things about this winter that are the worst include: brown air, waiting for medical test results, family dynamics, irresponsible pet owners, and being cold all the time (neither my home nor my office are adequately heated).

 

 

Going Outside: The Sunrise Edition

I don’t know anyone who likes to get up before dawn.  I’m sure people like that exist, I just don’t know any of them.  So when I say that being up to watch the sun rise is one of my favorite things, please know that this is not because I’m some kind of mutant who loves it when the alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning.

Delicate Arch at sunrise after a storm
Delicate Arch at sunrise after a storm
Sunrise in Arches National Park. Good stuff.
Sunrise in Arches National Park. Good stuff.

I am no kind of a morning person (I’m no kind of a night owl, either.  Is there such a thing as a broad daylight person?).  My reaction to the alarm going off varies from “oh, good, that’s finally over” if I’ve had a bad night to a violent gasp of panic during which I seriously question my grasp on reality and my life choices.  The best that can be said about my mood in the morning is that I have yet to seriously injure anyone. Strangely, my morning crankiness actually provides me with motivation to roll out in time for sunrise, basically because I figure I’m going to be cranky for the first little while after waking up anyway, so I might as well watch sunrise while the crankies wear off.  Other tricks I use to cajole myself out of bed include asking myself whether I will look back in old age and be happier to have the memory of sleeping in or the memory of sunrise.  It’s like that meme about yoga (“I really regret that yoga class,” said no one ever)–I have regretted sleeping in, but I have never regretted getting up for sunrise.

So why do I do it? Some of the perks include getting an early start, avoiding crowds at popular destinations, the chance to see wildlife before other people are around to scare the animals away, and knowing that I’ll sleep better that night if I get up super early and then hike all day. Those perks fit right in with being super picky–it’s much easier to find my preferred conditions very early in the morning.  There are generally not many other people around, and those few who might be out and about are either too sleepy to be jerks, or busy taking pictures and being unobtrusive. I have yet to meet any of my least favorite types of hikers on a sunrise hike.

Sunrise at Spirit Lake, Ashley National Forest. Soul renewal at its best.
Sunrise at Spirit Lake, Ashley National Forest. Soul renewal at its best.

Mostly, though, I drag myself out to watch the sunrise because it transforms me every time I do it.  Yes, every time, even the times when it’s overcast and there’s not much to see. Sometimes sunrise is stunningly beautiful and photogenic, and other times the sun just comes up with no fanfare, but I am somehow restored every time I see it.  I’m restored to a version of myself who isn’t cranky all the time, restored to someone who actually looks forward to the rest of the day.  My soul is renewed in a way that only watching the sun come up can do.

It helps that the light at sunrise is like nothing else.

Sunrise in Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park
Sunrise in Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park

It’s my favorite light, even more than sunset.  Being awake for sunrise gives me a sense of calm and peace that carries me through the day and works into my memory more deeply than other experiences. I’m generally pretty fuzzy on specific details of past trips, but the sunrises all stand out. I remember them more clearly than the sunsets, and each time I remember them, a little piece of calm happiness returns to me.  It’s good stuff.

I’d like to see more sunrises, but right now it’s an occasional treat I only do on camping and hiking trips. I’m not sure it would be the same experience if I just randomly got up on a Tuesday before work. I suspect that the isolation, the scenery, and the break from routine are part of what make the experience so special.

I am not a photographer, but I have found that the only people willing to get up with me for sunrise are photographers, so if you’re looking for sunrise buddies, they are a good bet. As much as I love quiet and isolation at sunrise, it’s also good to have trip companions, especially the kind whose only noise is the click of shutters.

Sunrises: 10 out of 10 stars, highly recommend.

The view from morning yoga in Arches National Park.
The view from morning yoga in Arches National Park.

If you go: bring a morning beverage, a snack, a camera, and a yoga mat if you like that sort of thing.  Maybe sleep in if it’s pouring down rain.  Or not, there’s always a chance that you’ll get a lucky break in the clouds at just the right moment.

Welcome! Here’s what this blog will be like

Hello! This is my first blog post, and I’m nervous! It helps to pretend that I’m invisible on the Internet, so no one can see me run away.

Competitve baking is super fun
Competitve baking is super fun. My many very specific opinions about pastry making finally paid off!

I’ve started this blog as a place to express some of the many things I almost never say to other people, mostly about getting through life as an exquisitely picky person. Some of those things may not be interesting to anyone but me, and that’s ok.

I am lucky enough to know many easy-going people.  I am even luckier to be married to such a person.  I have never been mistaken for one of them. Low maintenance? Laid-back? Nope.  Those things have never been said about me.

In the third grade, the teachers at the alternative hippie wonderland also known as my elementary school gave me the “stubborn but sweet” award, and that still pretty much sums me up. I like to get my own way, and that way is the pickiest possible way.

Persnickety? Extremely fussy and finicky about nearly everything, big or small? Yep.  That’s me.

The face I make when people tell me to smile.  My feelings are not public property.
The face I make when people tell me to smile. My feelings are not public property.

But it’s not all tantrums about how my toast gets buttered (yes, really.  In my defense, I was too little to do it myself) and meltdowns over TV shows with inaccurate depictions of baking (I’m looking at you, Pushing Daisies).

Scallops may very well be the perfect food.
Scallops may very well be the perfect food.

There are upsides to being very picky.  I care deeply about almost everything, including other people.  I almost always know what I want and what I don’t want. When in doubt, I have a lifetime of opinions I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about to help me figure things out.  And when I find something or someone that meets my ridiculous requirements, I appreciate just how special that is right down to the bottom of my prickly little heart.

For my fellow fussbudgets, my take on life will probably feel familiar, and I hope we can use our inside knowledge of the picky condition to improve the working of our human condition, or just talk about all the different foods we hate.

And for you happy-go-lucky people who respond “Oh, I’m happy with whatever” to most queries, firstly, bless you–I’m pretty sure the world would stop spinning without you–and secondly I hope this space will help us understand each other by illuminating the strange pathways and good intentions underlying pickiness. Or, you can stop by to laugh and shake your head at all the silly things I get worked up about.

Setting up an isolated reading nook on a camping trip combines three of my favorite things: reading, being outside, and being by myself.
Setting up an isolated reading nook on a camping trip combines three of my favorite things: reading, being outside, and being by myself.

Through my own picky lens, I’ll write about the things that interest me and the things I do on a regular basis.  Right now that includes reading, cooking, baking, being outside, health, and chronic illness. That said, it’s  my blog and I’ll talk about water use in arid regions and ethical issues in publishing when I want to.