Winter is my nemesis. Which is funny because it’s the season of my arrival. On the other hand, maybe it makes perfect sense: I was born in the middle of a January blizzard; it might not have been a polar vortex, but a winter storm nonetheless. When it was time to leave the hospital, my mother swaddled me in a blanket and carried me through the cold, dark night, with its blustery winds and swirling snow, to the idling car, where my dad sat in the driver’s seat, the heat blasting on high, ready to take his new family home. That was my first experience of the outdoors. I have a theory that some memory of this trauma still exists in my subconscious and that’s why I hate the season.
My husband thinks I just didn’t play outside enough as child. He could have a point.
Every year I dread this season, but as hard as I try to will it away (if only I had such power!) or find a job in California, it always proves inevitable. I get a little grumpy, and I take it personally–the cold and the dark interfering with my plans, forcing me to wear unfashionable footwear and pull up my collar to keep the wind from biting my neck.
Over the holidays we spent a few days at my step-father’s cottage and I have to say, that’s one place where I find winter enchanting. The world was blanketed in layers of fresh, white snow, and I could appreciate the romance of this season. We spent afternoons indoors, reading by the warmth of a crackling fire. My mom and I made soup for lunch and baked goods for dessert in a sunlit kitchen, the snow-covered lake spread out before us beyond the picture windows. We prepared meals together and ate by candlelight. We enjoyed some fresh air and the peaceful winter quiet that can be found beyond the city’s hum.
It was a wonderful way to spend the end of a year, offering a moment to reflect on the one that had passed, as we prepared to surrender to the wondrous unknown of the one that lies ahead.
Back in the city, another way to stay warm is to brew a pot of earl grey tea and whip up a batch of my Grandma Murphy‘s date squares. The treat warms you from the inside out.
2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups oats
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb dates
Preheat oven to 350°F
Thoroughly mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter until pea-sized lumps appear. Put half of the crumbs in greased 9 x 13 pan.
Cook the dates with enough water to cover until mushy. Add vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Let cool slightly.
Spread the date mixture over the bottom layer and cover with remaining crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Cut into squares while still slightly warm.