Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter Survival Notes

I always feel like I'm falling behind, but my mother, bless her, 
pointed out that I've had a productive January.

 Because I'm always chasing daylight in the winter, another goal was to get up earlier. My usual waking time is 8 a.m., but I moved it up an hour earlier in 2015. Now, I spring out of bed when the alarm goes off (it plays "Blackbird Song" by Lee DeWyze).

 While I have noticed some pretty outdoor winter scenes, many days I have been unwilling to put on a coat and gloves and trudge outside to take photographs, but it's not due to the weather. As I write this, I hear the concussive blast of a shotgun. Teenagers doing target practice again? Or did someone see a fox? A coyote? It's a wild place, the country. Me, I respect the wildness. And I am hesitant to step outside until I can find my orange University of Tennessee hat--my I'm-not-a-deer hat. No one on this farm ventures outside without wearing Day-glo orange clothing.

It's too cold to work in the garden, and heaven knows, it needs it, but that time will come.
Winter is an opportunity to look at the world around us--and you can never, ever look
too deeply. Looking closely at nature is a gift, one that is given to everyone. 
Except for a few days of zero-degree temperatures, the Tennessee winter has been much kinder than previous years, and I'm grateful. I haven't always feared the cold. One winter our propane tank bled dry. We'd seen it coming, but the propane company had insisted that we were overreacting, that the remote reading on our tank showed 55%. They refused to "top off" our tank and said they would swing by our house when the remote reading reached 20%. A "dry" tank can be dangerous. When it happened, a man from the company rushed over, red-faced and apologetic. He explained that the law required him to check our heating equipment and hot water heater. Thankfully, our gas appliances hadn't been harmed, and nothing was leaking. The man didn't know why the gauge had malfunctioned from his end or why we'd gone through the gas so quickly. I thought I'd cooked too much, squandering the propane, but according to the man, kitchen adventures hadn't caused the problem: my Viking burners were innocent (and so was I).

I spent the rest of the winter making jelly and bacon jam. 

While I keep an eye on the propane gauge (and start bugging the company to "top off" the tank when the numbers dip into the 30s), I still cook my way through winter. 

If you're looking for ideas, may I suggest a tomato tart with a balsamic reduction?

Few things are more comforting than baking bread on a winter day. I enjoy whipping up everyday condiments, too. It's almost time to make a fresh batch of Worcestershire sauce.

The winter kitchen can be a place to recharge your cooking batteries. 
You'll find over 200 ideas at our most recent Foodie Friday and the Everything Else Link Party.
Prepare to be inspired!

While jam-making is traditionally a late summer or fall activity, I enjoy "putting food by" on an icy, dark January day. Come summer, you'll have bacon jam to slather on your BLT sandwiches.

A benefit of making condiments and preserves: Summery smells waft through my winter kitchen.

Winter can be downright cheerful if you bring home flowers from the grocery.

If the temperature plunges, I plan to wrap up in a tartan blanket and sit next to the fireplace.

Creative Writing Exercise #1 for bloggers:
I'm a writer, not a designer or cook, and I'd be honored to share a little word game with 
you today. I've kept a journal for decades, and this is the place where I take a moment out of the day and play with words and images. For 2015, I'm going to really work on my blog posts and try to use more descriptive words (I'm especially fond of "delicious" when it pertains to a recipe and use this words many times a day, and while it gets the idea across, it's vague). While I'll never stop using "delicious," I can, at least, aim for something more descriptive. 
Some folks run 2 miles a day; others hit the gym. Using a pen and paper, I hope to tone my creative muscles this year

Here's an exercise. 
Winter is the best time to study sunlight. Really pay attention to it.
Does it feel warm on your arm? Yes, of course, but eliminate the word "warm." (Warm gets the job done--I use the word daily!--but it doesn't really tell anything.) Describe that feeling again of the sun touching your arm. Ask questions. Would you compare the feel of sunlight to a smooth silk wrap or the snuggly weight of a down-filled quilt? 
If sunshine had a taste, what would it be?
Lemony? Buttery? Shortbread cookie? 
Make Winter  Survival Notes.

Recipe Index:

Wherever you are, I hope it's sunny and warm.
See you tomorrow for the Sunday house tour.

Shared at:


  1. I am one of those rare people that absolutely loves winter!! Maybe it is those nasty hot flashes that play havoc with me come hot weather (will they never end.) I adore curling up by the fire, the smell of wood smoke, warm socks, a good book, a delicious cup of tea and baking in a warm kitchen on a cold's winter day. What could be better?

    Mary L

    1. I'm embracing your wonderful outlook. And your descriptions would warm anyone's day. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Michael Lee and Happy New Year to you! I love your word for 2015! I'm 'trying' at the moment too. I wish you the very best this new year.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  3. Your exercise is fun. Let's see ~ Sunshine on a winter day is like a kiss that makes you tingle. It's a yummy sugar crusted creme brulée with a twist of lemon. It's a soft creamy cashmere sweater. It's zesty lemoncello warming your throat with each delicious sip.

    1. Sarah, I love your similes! Each one evokes the most beautiful image. I love how you look at winter sunshine. Thank you SO much for playing along!

  4. Our weather the last few days has been in the 70's. Perfect. It is cool in the mornings, but warms up nicely. Hope you have a week of nothing but sunshine.

    1. Thank you, Marty. Your wish brought good luck. We've had sunshine for two days in a row--it's sublime!

  5. I really like your descriptions of Winter. I love winter - the rain that cleans everything off. The sunlight coming in the window and dances on the wood floor. The dogs chasing the sunlight for warmth. The smell of baking and my neighbors burning wood in there fireplace. Of course our winters here in So CA are nothing like what most of you experience. I love my warm sweaters and socks, sitting in a chair on the patio reading a good book with the sun warming my old bones - feels so good. And, I really love to smell home made chicken soup to take the chill off.

    I love reading your posts and will have to get your books and read them.
    Have a wonderful winter week.

    1. Beautiful, evocative images, Mary. I love to watch the sunlight, too.

  6. You are having FUN on your winters day, I guess being in ca winters are so short I barely notice them, spring will start next week for us they say. I love cold days, perfect time to read read and more than more reading! Snacking all day on sweets and tea is extra fun :-)

    Love the sun playing over your books, arch over arch is delightful...

    Winter sun is still excruciating at our beach house, it could be 8 degrees and blowing gale conditions, but that passive solar house with its wall of windows is sweltering, stifling, suffocating from early afternoon on... I strip down to tank tops, sweat beading down my jowels, rolling down my arms, splattering on my books, how's that for pretty descriptive writing ;-) I always bale and head for the icy back rooms, I swear there could be storm clouds inside with temp variance from the cold north room to the eastern exposure. I think you need a change in lattitude, you just may miss your cozy quiet pale pastel momments...

    I think I could embrace a couple of words this year ... F A T C A M P

    1. Love your images, Jain, and your humor always makes my day. Fat Camp? I'm in! Just last night, I dreamed that I was poking holes in a pound cake and pouring icing over it...and something was wrong, something about my technique, but I can't remember. In real life, I bought two cake pans, and I'm determined to make a citrus cake from the last of Mama's oranges.

  7. The only way I can survive winter is follow the sun to south Florida. I made my husband promise me I would never be cold again and bless his heart, he keeps his promises. How did I miss that southern cook's essential ingredient - homemade Worcestershire sauce? I'm off to follow the link on that. Snuggle up with that blanket ML and stay warm.

    1. Sam, it's so easy--and the taste is 1000 times better than the bottled version.

  8. I'm a person that likes winter, Michael Lee, at least here in Texas, I do! It's such a relief after our brutally hot summers. Mmmmm...You left so many lovely foodie images that I must go check them out...the homemade Worcestershire sauce...oh my!! I never thought to make that! The Bacon Jam sounds (oops, I was going to say "delcious") heavenly!

    1. Kitty, you will love homemade Worcestershire. The flavor is deeper and milder--the bottled version isn't as delicious. LOL Well, it's not! Glad you're enjoying the Texas winter. I've enjoyed your Christmas jam, by the way.

  9. Well done, Michael. I loved reading this post. And, everything you made looks delectable. Sarah White

  10. This post was an absolutely perfect start to my day, Michael. As I write this, rare sunbeams are streaming through my window on a bone chilling winter morning. I love the photographs and the wonderful recipe inspiration - as well as the writing inspiration as well. 'Delicious' and 'lovely' are the two words I over-use the most - I'm going to try the exercise you suggested to see if I too can be more creative!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, April. It's lovely to see you!

  11. Oh my all of those recipes have such great names!! They look and sound delicious! Thank you for joining Home Sweet Home.