How to not go crazy when winter drags on. A slow living guide for appreciating winter as we transition to spring—Caitlin Gemmell.Read Now
In my corner of the world, on the top of a hill in a cold Northern place, winter is still howling and raging. Many of you are posting beautiful springtime photos of snowdrops, crocuses, and even daffodils. I admit I was feeling a tad resentful, and unhappy to be living in such a harsh climate. I grew up in warm and mild climates (Southern England and Oklahoma), so it’s easy for me to compare the first 18 years of my life with the past decade or so of living in the Northeastern USA, and to feel wistful for warmer places that actually get springtime weather.
But then, on a warmer day, I walked in the wood surrounding my house and I felt so much gratitude for the beautiful nature in my own backyard. We may only get a month of spring weather at the most, before summer arrives in a frenzy, but I sure feel appreciative of this winter wonderland.
So while some of you are out there enjoying mild weather and the first flowers of the season, I am still curled up in my winter nest with plenty of hot tea, warm blankets, and good books. Hygge living for the win! I might still crave spring as intensely as Rapunzel’s mother craved that green of the same name, but I have found ways to cope—to slow down and appreciate these final two months of winter.
If you find yourself in the same boat, or are just curious about my slow living tips, read on!
•Immerse yourself in a good book. I’ve been reading Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy. I recently completed The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower. Both are set in medieval Russia and feature a Winter King. The winter scenes are so hauntingly beautiful. As I lose myself in these incredible fairytales, I find myself looking up at the snowy scene outside my own window. These books help me to appreciate winter again, if even just enough to make it bearable.
•Have an indoor picnic. Are you yearning for spring, but it’s still only 20 degrees Fahrenheit? How about creating an indoor picnic? My son and I did this today. I boiled some eggs, sliced some fruits and veggies, and made a thermos of tea. We spread our picnic blanket on the floor and had a lovely indoor picnic.
• Treat yourself to a facial, herbal bath, or foot soak. The hot water is so soothing and comforting when it’s bitterly cold outside. If you add fresh, floral essential oils you can pretend it’s spring for a moment.
• If you have seasonal capsule wardrobes like me, try to pack away some of your winter clothes and get out just a few spring pieces that you can layer with your winter clothes. I added some spring floral scarves to my wardrobe and packed away my heavy winter plaid scarves. It’s a simple change, but one that helps me embrace the spring feeling even when it’s too cold to fully dress in spring clothes.
•Get a bouquet of flowers from your local grocery, or try planting indoor bulbs (like paper whites). It’s so helpful having green, growing things indoors.
• Make tea, chocolate, or coffee in your most beautiful, extravagant cup and sip it slowly. Be present. Enjoy every single sip.
•Grab a pair of binoculars, bundle up, and go on a nature observation walk. Record how many plants you can identify, birds you spot, other wildlife you come across. Perhaps you will even see the first signs of spring.
• Keep a gratitude journal. I’ll be posting on Instagram about a month long gratitude journal challenge for the month of March. Want to join in? Stay tuned for more info, or join my email list to be notified when this challenge begins.
When I was a teenager, I had a huge walk-in closet jam-packed with random clothing items and yet I felt like I had nothing to wear. Sound familiar? Although my family was already embracing a greener lifestyle by eating organic food and using eco-friendly cleaning products, we were far from being conscious consumers.
It wasn’t until my early twenties when I moved to a forward thinking college town in the Northeastern USA that I really examined my lifestyle and decided to CHOOSE a better way.
Fast forward ten(ish) years and I’ve learned a lot about eco-friendly slow fashion, zero waste living, and have refined my style so it suits ME rather than what the conventional world thinks a “mompreneur” should look like.
I’ve been on this journey for many years now, but I still have a long way to go. It was only earlier last year that I swapped my recycled plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one after all. 🙊
Here are some tips for finding your signature style and making healthy, responsible fashion choices. I’m also sharing some of my favorite slow fashion brands (not sponsored, just ones I personally love).
•Step one: find your style! When I was younger I tended to like a hodgepodge of different styles. My closest was a mess! Nothing went with anything else. It’s only been the past few years that I’ve really refined my style and discovered what works for me. I recommend using Pinterest to start tracking the styles you like. When you start noticing a pattern make note of the key words used to describe those similar styles that keep cropping up on your style board. I noticed I like certain colors, textures, fabrics, asymmetrical cuts. I’ve learned that my style is mostly a blend of ethereal faerie with earthy eco-chic and British countryside. See if you can come up with some keywords for your style.
•Don’t buy ANY new clothes for three months. I know this seems difficult, but it will help you to notice what clothes you wear again and again. At the end of the three months donate all of the items you didn’t wear (keep items you didn’t wear but might need at some point —wedding guest dresses as an example. Only keep one or two of these every once in awhile items).
•Now that you have only items you love in your closet, make a list of what you need to fill it in. Try to stick to a cohesive color palette to make life simpler.
•Try to buy what you need from secondhand stores, or through clothing swaps to reduce waste. If you must buy new items try purchasing from slow fashion/eco fashion brands. If you buy out of season you can usually find things on sale.
Here are a list of some of my favorite brands.
Easy Living Hats. Olivia’s eco-friendly handmade hats are some of my wardrobe staples. I have one in dusty blue and one in poppy red. These hats last for years and years and are so stylish! Choose well-made, stylish items over poorly made trendy items always!
Easy Living Hats can be found on Instagram
Another slow fashion advocate I admire is Haley of Atonement Design. I have partnered with Haley in the past, but this post is in no way sponsored. Her work is really amazing and I highly recommend her jewelry. I have my eye on one of her dresses for summertime. A percentage of proceeds are donated to help stop human trafficking. Fashion with a cause? Yes please!
Atonement Design is also on Instagram
Another eco-clothing company I admire is Christy Dawn. They make small batches of dresses using deadstock—the discarded leftover fabric from fashion houses.
Hands down, the best shoe company I’ve found is Nisolo. They are sustainably made, elegant, chic, earthy, and made to last.
I LIVED in a Gaia Conceptions skirt for years, until it began to fall apart. I absolutely love the earthy elegance of Gaia Conceptions designs, the eco-friendly hemp fabric, and low impact dyes.
I’ll share some more favorites in my next newsletter. In the meantime, do you have any tips you’d like to share for living a sustainable lifestyle? Share your #enchantedsimplicity posts on Instagram.
*Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for gifting me a copy of “The Wartime Sisters.”*
”The Wartime Sisters” follows the lives of two Jewish sisters growing up in Brooklyn, and later at an armory in Springfield during WWII. Ruth is the practical, plain, older sister. Millie is their mother’s darling, the perfect child. Much of this book focuses on the complicated relationship between these two sisters, but there are also two other story lines involving the wife of the commanding officer at the armory and an Italian singer who works in the cafeteria.
Lynda Cohen Loigman provides just enough historical details to satisfy readers of historical fiction, but the focus is clearly about complicated family ties, the bonds of friendship, and solidarity between women. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters. This book was hard to put down. I think I read it in two sittings.
“The Wartime Sisters” is sure to satisfy one’s craving for a book about sisters and women’s issues that is firmly rooted in historical fiction as well.
This is was a solid 3⭐️ read!
(**Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. The book was gifted to me for review purposes.**)
The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a rich and layered book about the malleability of time. This story jumps back and forth across several different points in time. Each character seems of equal importance, but we discover early on that the main character is the clockmaker’s daughter, Birdie. This is the story of her life and death, sometimes told by her in first person narrative and at others by the people connected to her across time. It is a story of love, loss, and the connection between people and places.
Kate Morton explores that which is impalpable—time, light, ghosts. In one scene Birdie attempts to capture light in a tin, only to discover that light (like time) is elusive. The Clockmaker’s Daughter binds together characters who have experienced loss, have their own ghosts they carry with them. Some of these characters are artists or photographers, forever trying to capture the intangible. Others have experienced the deep ache of loss and are attempting to fill it.
Ar the center of the story is a place, Birchwood Manor. Every single main character has experienced this place, and perceived it to be magical in some way. This place is what connects the characters through the threads of time.
Once these tangled threads have been worked through, Birdie’s story is complete and the confused muddle evaporates.
This is was a deeply moving, meaningful book for anyone who has experienced loss or felt an intense pull towards a particular place or person.
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a free galley to review.
(***This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.***)
Arden’s lyrical and sumptuous debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, transports readers to medieval Russia. History and folklore blend together seamlessly in this dark fairytale.
The story centers around Vasya, a girl who inherited her grandmother’s magical abilities. She lives with her father, four older siblings, and nurse in the harsh countryside where winter lasts most of the year. The fairy tales her nurse, Dunya, tells are only entertaining stories for everyone but Vasya. She has the ability to see and communicate with the nature and household spirits. Although the others can’t see these spirits, the old Pagan beliefs still linger, and offerings are left for them.
Everything changes when Vasya’s father returns from a visit to Moscow with a new bride, a woman who shares her ability to see the old Gods and spirits. Unlike Vasya, who sees them as friends, Anna perceives them to be evil. The new village priest bands together with Anna in an attempt to stamp out the old Pagan ways, forcing the villagers to ignore the local deities. This has terrible consequences. The once joyful villagers now live in fear, which the evil creature (known as the Bear) thrives on. Dark forces have awoken, the benevolent deities begin to fade away, and Vasya must use her powers to save her village.
This is a book to be savored. The pacing is slow, the main character compelling, and the language utterly enchanting. There were a few story threads that were left unfinished, and one can only hope that these will be explored in the sequel.
”Master of His Fate” is the first book in a new series by the well renowned author of historical fiction, Barbara Taylor Bradford. It centers around James Falconer, and Alexis Malvern. Their two story threads run parallel before seamlessly merging together. This was a character driven novel, set in Victorian London. It explored themes of sex, class, and coming of age. The characters were lovable, if a bit too perfect. This is the perfect “escape from reality” book—as every single main and secondary character were noble, just, and charmingly captivating. There were a few unpleasant incidents, but mainly everything turned out perfect for every character with little to vex them.
The historical details were fascinating, adding a rich layer to the book, and were obviously well thought out. The mention of some famous people of the time also helped bring the book to life.
The initial promise of delving into some vital feminist issues, which are just as valid today, fizzled out. It would have been an important book, rather than just an entertaining one, had these issues and story threads been more fully developed.
“Master of His Fate” was an engaging, richly executed work of historical fiction. I look forward to the next book in the series.
**Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Get Red PR for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Many of you have been following and contributing to my Instagram hashtag #enchantedsimplicity so I thought I would share a bit more about what this term means to me as well as tips for keeping the magic alive as 2018 dissipates and 2019 begins to unfurl.
Acknowledgment of the magic present in all things. A slow-living lifestyle in which the everyday transforms into joyful enchantment. This lifestyle is inspired by minimalism, simple living, slow living, and hygge. It is about being present in the world and having respect for nature. It is about being a conscious consumer who researches a brand before purchasing to make sure our values are in alignment. A person who lives an Enchanted Simplicity lifestyle will always use what they have first, recycle, repurpose, buy secondhand, and finally purchase new quality items from eco-conscious brands. Besides living in harmony with the Earth, an adherent to the Enchanted Simplicity lifestyle recognizes that the world is full of magic and wonder. It is important to live a magical existence--to watch the first spring buds unfurl, to catch glimpses of shooting stars and rainbows, to stop to smell the flowers, to attract amazing synchronicities.
Here are some ways in which I embrace enchanted simplicity:
1. Spontaneous morning tea parties with my six-year-old. I make a pot of loose leaf tea, fill a fancy cream jug, get out the good bone china and let him pour his own tea. That little bit of magic first thing in the morning seems to set the tone for our entire day.
2. Go on a sacred walk in nature. This is an activity I suggested for participants in one of my workshops. The idea is that by walking in the same place on a regular basis you will begin to form a meaningful relationship with place. The first step involves walking and observing from a multi-sensory level. What can you see, smell, taste, touch, hear? Record your experiences in a journal.
3. Collecting nature treasures. Another walk, this time one in which you gather little nature treasures as you walk. Is there a particular acorn calling out to you? A smooth river rock with an enticing glow around it? A sweet smelling pine cone?
4. Playing dressing up. This is something I encourage my son to do on a regular basis, but it’s also important for me to engage in this activity every now and again. I get dressed in a nice outfit, do my makeup, add glitter, spray on some perfume. Even if I don’t have anywhere to go, it makes my day special when I dress as if something amazing is just around the corner. Try it! You’ll be amazed at how you feel. This is useful for everyone, but especially stay-at-home, or work-from-home mamas.
5. Planting seeds, or potted plants. We’ve had the same potted geraniums for at least four years now. Once the first frost arrives we bring them inside. Last winter, in February, I noticed one of the geraniums was about to bloom. It was such a magical sight—red flowers blooming in the middle of winter. As I write this I can see two of my potted geraniums are blooming—one pink and one red.
6. Take a long bath, or shower. Use fragrant soaps, oils, bath salts. If you don’t have a tub (like me), try a foot soak in a large basin instead.
7. When you first awaken, notice how you feel. What are you thinking? Is your mind already rushing ahead to all of the things you must accomplish this day? If so, take a few deep breaths and speak words like the following: I recognize the enchantment in the everyday. I am open to receive and recognize magic.
8. Make lunch or dinner special. Take a few extra moments to set the table in a beautiful way, arrange your food in an aesthetically pleasing manner, light a candle. These little touches really don’t take long and they make a world of difference. We always say a mealtime blessing. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate the food before you and to acknowledge how it nourishes your body.
9. Evening ritual. Perhaps you are busy all day long, but have some time to unwind in the evening. Make this time special. Dress in your most comfortable clothes, light candles (or a fire in the fireplace if you are lucky), journal, read books, create a collage, sip tea, take time to reflect on your hopes and dreams, let go of stress and negative thoughts, concentrate on deep breathing, do yoga. These are just suggestions. Take what works and discard the rest.
Of course I have lots of other ideas, but I hope these suggestions will help you continue to embrace the enchanted simplicity as winter continues and the earth slumbers. Winter is a time of hushed quiet, inner contemplation and reflection.
Share some ways you embrace enchanted simplicity, and thank you for continuing to tag your photos which highlight the magical in the everyday with #enchantedsimplicity.
Check out the following for some Enchanted Simplicity inspiration:
Pinterest board dedicated to simple living, green beauty, eco-conscious brands, and Enchanted Simplicity.
The Calm Collective Instagram page run by Cassandra Eldridge. She also has a blog and a podcast.
Katy Who is one of my favorites! Her outdoor, nature, fairytale, simple living photos resonate with me so very much.
How is it possible that this year is almost over? Did it seem to fly by for you too? This was the first year I managed to keep track of my reading (for the most part) through Goodreads --and I am glad I did, as it makes it easier to look back on my reading year.
I read some truly amazing books this year, so it was difficult to narrow down my top favorites. I decided to limit most of my reading picks to books which were published this year. I rated all of these with 4 or 5 stars (out of 5). So without further ado, here are my five favorite books of 2018!
1. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. Genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism. Publication date: December 4, 2018. Atria Books.
This exquisite book wasn't published until December 4, 2018, but I was lucky to receive a free galley from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It may very well become one of my favorite books of all time. My review can be found here.
2. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang. Genre: Magical Realism. Publication date: November 14, 2017. St. Martin's Press.
Magical Realism is by far my favorite genre to read and write, but that being said I find it is rather hit or miss. I was pleasantly surprised by this fantastic book. The characters stayed with me long after I read the last page. My review can be found on Goodreads.
3. The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay. Publication date: October 30, 2018. St. Martin's Press. Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction. This book was gifted to me by the publishers via NetGalley. The writing was eloquent and hauntingly beautiful. I honestly can't wait to read another book by this author. My review can be found here: the-rain-watcher.html
4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Publication date: February 8, 2018. Raven Books. Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller.
This was a brilliant book! It was a fresh and unique mystery. It's almost like a more sinister version of the film Groundhog Day. This was another book I was grateful to receive from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. My review can be found here: www.goodreads.com/review/show/2521218878?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
5. Circe by Madeline Miller. Publication date: April 10, 2018. Little, Brown and Company. Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Historical Fiction, Mythology. I know I am not alone in listing this as one of the top books of 2018. This book is phenomenal! Review here: book-review-circe-by-madeline-miller.html
Tell me, what were your top five books of the year?
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