Today, I find myself writing to you from my desk (and not my bed for once). I didn’t really have anything planned to write this week, but I woke up with the motivation to write something a little chatty. The skies are grey, and the air is gloomy, but the lamps are lit, the tea is hot, and the fleece jumpers are as cozy as ever. Christmas is over, the New Year came and went, and finally it’s time to hunker down for the slow, cold months ahead. The pantry is a little less full than it was, the kitchen heavy with the scent of citrus fruits, and the sun hardly ever shows her face. But that’s okay because winter is the season of hibernation, January is the time for rest. It’s time now to focus inwardly, to nurture the little buds inside of us so that come springtime, we can bloom as elegantly as the flowers.
It’s time to embrace a slower pace.
Winter is the season of hibernation. There is little else to do, and most of us are at home after all. The excitement of the holiday season has dwindled, but there’s still so much beauty to be found. I’ve always struggled with the winter; we’ve never really gotten along (so to speak). But this year, I’m trying my best to embrace what is simpler and softer. January is a month of new beginnings, a clean slate, a chance to recharge in the comforts of home.
The autumn, for me, was both busy and not. I spent the long month of September writing my ebook, A Simple Christmas, followed by publishing and promoting all the way through until the holidays. It was a relief to get to December in one piece. October was quiet, and November even more so. I spent an exceptional amount of time watching Criminal Minds and baking cinnamon rolls. December rolled around before we knew it, and Christmas day this year was an odd-ball if ever there was one. But January is here, and the calendars are empty, once again, as we continue our journey inwards with another lockdown. The shift in seasons has been greatly appreciated and once again I find myself given the chance to fully embrace seasonal living. There is always something to look forward to. Now, in January, we can allow ourselves to sleep a little more, and go as slowly as we need to. Why not let this season act as a reminder to cultivate a slower pace, focusing on inward roots and self-nurture. It’s okay if productivity this month looks a little different to how it did last month, or next month. We are not defined by our productivity.
Set an intention for the winter with me: Embrace the slow pace of January.
These past couple of weeks have been spent less on work and more on self-growth. I somehow managed to sprain my neck last Friday, and I was honestly kind of grateful for the excuse to do nothing but watch movies all day. It’s interesting… how I didn’t feel guilty for doing something like that when I was unwell, but as soon as it got to Monday, all I wanted to do was work and I was constantly berating myself because I wasn’t ‘getting anything done’.
“Oh, Katherine… you still have so much to learn. You don’t have to have everything checked off of your to-do list at the end of the day. You don’t even have to have a to-do list! The only thing you need to keep on top of are making sure you have clean undies, that you’ve fed your fish, that you’re hydrated, and that you’ve eaten enough today.”
This was written in my journal this morning. And yet I still find myself comparing my productivity to the rest of my household. I would shake my head if I could.
Getting back off of that tangent, I wanted to take the time today to share with you some of the things that I’ve been finding solace and joy in these past few weeks. I know that winter is a difficult time for everyone in a multitude of different ways, but something I have found really useful lately is to write about all the things that I enjoy, and everything that has been making my happy. It’s hard to start with, but once you get into the flow of things, you’ll find it easy, and you’ll be even more grateful for everything you’re writing about.
Let’s start today with what I’ve been reading lately.
If you don’t know already, I am an avid bookworm. I love to read. I would read all day if I could. In the wintertime, we have the opportunity to read more than we might normally, and I fully embrace that fact. I encourage you to pick up a book, any book, and just take some time out of your day to read for your own enjoyment. If you need a little further encouragement, here is my absolute favourite quote for when I’m feeling unmotivated to read:
“Compare the different between the life of a man who does no reading and that of a man who does. The man who has not the habit of reading is imprisoned in his immediate world, in respect to time and space. His life falls into a set routine; he is limited to contact and conversation with a few friends and acquaintances, and he sees only what happens in his immediate neighbourhood. From this prison there is no escape.
But the moment he takes up a book, he immediately enters a different world, and if it is a good book, he is immediately put in touch with one of the best talkers of the world. This talker leads him on and carries him into a different country or a different age, or unburdens to him some of his personal regrets, or discusses with him some special line or aspect of life that the reader knows nothing about. An ancient author puts him in communion with a dead spirit of long ago, and as he reads along, he begins to imagine what that ancient author looks like and what type of person he was…
Now to be able to live two hours out of twelve in a different world and take one’s thoughts off the claims of the immediate present is, of course, a privilege to be envied by people shut up in their own bodily prison.”Yutang Lin, The Importance of Living
Absolutely the number one thing that I find solace in, somewhere to escape for a little bit, is books. Gloomy days in the winter are the perfect reason to spend all day curled up in the blankets reading a book. Whether you’re re-reading a favourite from your bookshelf, learning something new with a non-fiction, or simply feeding your inner bookworm, reading is just one of those things that makes the heart sing. Now, without further dilly dally, here is what I have been reading lately.
‘Pachinko’ by Min Jin Lee
‘Teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy yakuza. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant – and that her lover is married – she refuses to be bought. Facing ruin, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle minister passing through on his way to Japan. Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country where she has no friends, Sunja will be forced to make some difficult choices. Her decisions will echo through the decades.’
Taking place from 1910 to 1989, Pachinko follows the story of Sunja and her family, on their journey from Korea to Japan. Throughout the story, Sunja and her family must face many hardships: loss of faith, deceit, heartbreak, exile, discrimination. Opening in a deceptively idyllic coastline setting in Korea, we soon find ourselves encompassed in Sunja’s world – street markets, university halls, pachinko parlors, and the criminal underworld of the yakuza. Pachinko is the untold side of history, written beautifully by Min Jin Lee with the purpose of informing western audiences of Japanese-Korean culture. The novel itself reads like one long hymn, intimate and delicately detailed, focusing on the struggles of a Korean family living in Japan. Subjected to racism, stereotypes, and the historical origins of the 20th century Korean experiences in Japan, this book allows rich history to unfold at a pace that is enchantingly peaceful. The novel’s finest scenes are underpinned with shame and guilt, with every character continually forced by their position as a second-class citizen to make the most painful sacrifices, and, consequently, consider the nature of those sacrifices.
By the end of this book, I felt both at peace and overcast with grief. This novel will leave your heart scattered and in utter turmoil. Pachinko tore me apart. We as readers can never experience that same anguish as our characters. There are parts of this book that really wrench at the gut and make you think HARD about your life and just how lucky you are to be living it. Pachinko put me in my place, made me realise that I knew nothing about the World Wars, at least nothing outside of what happened to the country I grew up in. I suppose it is as they say: history is written by the victors.
Pachinko is my favourite book. Never have I read a story more powerful or been moved so deeply.
‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino
‘Yasuko lives a quiet life, a good mother to her only child. But when her ex-husband appears at her door without warning one evening her comfortable world is shattered. When Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo Police tries to piece together the events of that night, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated. Nothing quite makes sense…’
I literally devoured this book in a day the first time I read it. Keigo Higashino is by far my favourite author. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of reading the same authors over and over again, or authors from the same ethnic backgrounds. Last year, I challenged myself to read new authors from all around the world, and my taste in books has grown tenfold. I have always been fascinated by culture and discovering new authors has been the best way for me to learn and have new experiences this year.
I just started reading another one of Keigo Higashino’s books, ‘A Midsummer’s Equation’, and I’m currently practicing so much self-discipline not to flop down on my bed and read until I can no longer keep my eyes open. If you’re a fan of murder mystery novels, then Keigo Higashino’s books are the ones for you. They’re easy to read and have the more ingenious storylines, containing plot twist after plot twist. They really get you to think. I love solving mysteries as I read, and these books are just perfect for problem-solvers like me. You can tell I’m 100% obsessed. If you’re looking to try new books this year and don’t know where to start, I fully recommend reading Keigo Higashino’s works.
‘The Long Walk’ by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
‘A chilling look at the ultra-conservative America of the future where a grueling 450-mile marathon is the ultimate sports competition.’
Really, I couldn’t write about my favourite books without listing something by Stephen King. If I’m ever unsure of what to read next, I usually turn to one of his novels. I can’t say this about a lot of books, but I read The Long Walk in a day. Yet another dystopian novel, The Long Walk follows Garraty on his 450-mile journey to the finish line, along with 99 other boys. I could rave on about this book for hours, but for your sake I won’t, and I won’t say too much about it either because I don’t want to give anything away. I will say, however, that this book is one of the reasons why I became a writer. I had never read anything like this before and it really helped me to realise that boundaries must be pushed, and that not all books are written in the same way. You can write the most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stories, and also maintain the beauty of language within it. For example:
‘The dead are orphans. No company but the silence like a moth’s wing. An end to the agony of movement, to the long nightmare of going down the road. The body in peace, stillness, and order. The perfect darkness of death.’
These books (above) have been my absolute favourite reads, and I plan on reading them over and over again. I wanted to highlight my favourite books specifically because my passion for them simply needed to be shared. If none of these books float your boat, then here’s a quick list of some other books I read last year, just in case you need some extra inspiration:
- The Emerald Atlas, John Stephens
- Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith
- The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
- The Wall, John Lanchester
- World War Z, Max Brooks
- The Binding, Bridget Collins
- The Secret History, Donna Tartt
- The Woman in the Window, A. J. Finn
- The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
- The Last, Hanna Jameson
- The Painted House, John Grisham
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
Books I am currently reading/looking forward to include:
- A Midsummer’s Equation, Keigo Higashino
- The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
- The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
As well as reading, I’m a sucker for movies.
If there’s one thing that I do almost as much as reading a book, it’s watching a movie. Never have I watched so many movies in my life than last year! I find it all too easy now adays to curl up on the sofa and watch movie after movie, but that’s okay. We all need a treat sometimes. My ideal day would be spent with my hands wrapped around a hot drink, watching some of my favourite films. In dark times, we turn to the artists, and the winter is the perfect opportunity to embrace some art and restore your soul a little. I watch almost a movie a day (no shame here), but I wanted to share with you a few of my favourites as well as some new good finds:
- The Maze Runner (trilogy) (based on the books by James Dashner (also amazing))
- The Help (based on the book by Kathryn Stockett)
- The Water Diviner
- Eddie the Eagle
- The Day After Tomorrow
- Dead Poets Society
- Gran Torino
- Pan’s Labyrinth
- The Meg
- Train to Busan
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- What We Do In The Shadows
- Cloud Atlas
- Hacksaw Ridge
- Fantastic Beast and Where To Find Them
And of course, you can’t go a day without eating something delicious.
Food is friendly, food is fuel. I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen over the past 12 months and have really been experimenting with some new foods and flavours. I like to make everything that I eat in order to eat more intentionally, and all of my meals are focused on what is in season. Seasonal eating has really helped me to expand my repertoire and I’ve now got a lot of new and tasty dishes under my belt just waiting to be served. I’m going to share with you a few of my favourite foods and meals that I’ve been loving recently, to help avoid cooking up the same old thing in the kitchen every day.
Breakfast usually looks like:
- Carrot cake baked oatmeal
- Banana pancakes
- Frozen fruit smoothies
- Toast with all the toppings
These vary depending on how much time I have on my hands, but lately that’s been a fair amount. Breakfast is my most important meal of the day because it acts as an alarm for my body that its time to wake up and get cracking. I usually like to have something nutritious and complex (in terms of digestion) to help fuel me throughout the morning.
Lunch is either super simple or something warming:
- Root veggie soups
- Hot curried lentils
- Spicy potato wedges
- Something from the freezer
Again, lunch varies depending how much time I have on my hands. I usually go for a walk after lunch, so I never have anything too heavy, but these yummy meals keep me happy and satiated. Like I said, sometimes lunch takes a long time to prepare, but most of the time I make things in bulk e.g., a large batch of soup or a lentil dish. In the winter, my foods tend to be more hearty and contain a lot of dried or frozen foods, simply because that’s what I have around, but in the summer my plate is usually full of fresh produce from the garden.
Dinner is my favourite meal of the day:
- Vegetarian Jiaozi
- Pasta e fagioli
- Hot Thai curry
- Good old roast dinner
I love trying different cuisines when it comes to dinner time. I’m a foodie all day long, but there’s something special about preparing a meal with someone you love and sitting down together to enjoy it. If you’re stuck for new meals to add to your dinner rotation, I fully recommend looking at different countries and cultures for inspiration. We eat a lot of spicy food, and so tend to get meal inspiration from traditional Szechuan and Thai dishes (I would cook them the traditional way completely if I weren’t plant based).
As well as all of these beautiful dishes, I’m also a sucker for the simpler things and you’ll often find me snacking on carrots and hummus or bananas and peanut butter. Of course, cake is my speciality and I’m an avid baker, but most recently I have been obsessed with a good old lemon drizzle. I also drink a lot of different things throughout the day, but my favourites are things like assam or chamomile tea, mushroom hot chocolate, and sometimes a cheeky glass of Malbec.
Outside of all of that, most of my favourite things are things I do every day.
Yoga – if you didn’t know, I have been a consistent yogi for about two years now. Yoga is by far my favourite part of the day. I do it first thing in the morning – drag myself out of bed, roll out my mat, and let the magic happen. My favourite classes are from Yoga with Adriene’s YouTube channel and (before I sprained my neck) I was doing her BREATH 30-day Yoga Journey which was proving to be so beneficial for all of the winter negativity that I suffer from (as well as providing a little burn in the belly from all of that Christmas indulgence). Yoga keeps me healthy, both mentally and physically, and I recommend it to anyone looking to improve their overall wellbeing.
Walks – I try to go for a walk everyday (usually after lunch) to get some fresh air, ultraviolet light, and a pause in the day. I thrive off of the sun, and at this time of year that can be difficult to get. However, even just going outside does wonders for me. I’m very lucky to live in a fairly secluded village with lots of walk-routes that allow me to stretch my legs and escape the hustle bustle even for just half an hour. Going for a walk is one of my most treasured habits, and I fully recommend even just a short stroll to anyone who might be struggling currently.
Hula Hooping – I got myself a hula hoop for Christmas and I am honestly obsessed with it. I was doing so much exercise over the summer and it did me so much good, but now that I spend almost all of my time inside, it can be hard to find the motivation to do so. I’ve always loved hula hooping, and it provides a fun and easy way to get back into some regular exercise. I use a weighted hula hoop (it’s about 1kg) for a little bit of extra challenge, but any hoop will do. It’s really fun just to play around for a little bit and reunite with your inner child.
Jigsaw Puzzles – yes, I am an old lady. I love jigsaw puzzles, especially because it means I get to spend some quality time with my dad. There’s something really calming and pleasing about putting all of the different pieces in the right place and ending up with a beautiful picture. It does take a little bit of patience, but it’s so relaxing to just sit down with a hot drink and just enjoy the quiet of a little old-fashioned activity. I love jigsaws based around scenes of Italian summers the most.
Learning Italian – I’m naturally a very curious person, and so I love learning new things. I dropped language studies at school and sincerely regret it, so I decided to take up learning Italian last year. I try to practise regularly, and so far I’m doing good. It is my absolute dream to move to Italy sometime in the next few years, and I thought I would give myself a head start by learning the language. Learning something new is always something so enjoyable for me, as you can watch yourself improve in different subjects and become so much more knowledgeable in the process.
Sleeping – winter is the season of hibernation, and I am embracing that. Last year was exhausting and I don’t know about you, but I’m still as tired as ever. It’s okay to sleep more at this time of year, especially if you need it. The days are shorter, and the sun is hiding behind the clouds, increasing the production of hormones such as melatonin in our bodies, meaning that we feel more tired. That’s okay. It’s okay to be tired. Allow yourself to rest a little more. Know that the spring will come.
Hygge – fleece sweaters, fuzzy socks, fluffy blankets, teddies, scented candles, fairly lights, cinnamon rolls, hot tea, cologne, pyjamas, best friends, old books, lit fireplaces, cuddles, journaling, bunnies, gratitude, gardening, photographs, sourdough bread, plants.
Over the winter, I’ll be posting here and there, with some exciting new content as well as some good old plant-based seasonal recipes. Let me know if there’s anything you want to see specifically – suggestions are always welcome! As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me and if you try any recipes, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @rhythmandgreen so we can see what you’ve been up to!
For me, winter is going to be spent working quietly on some projects for the year, investing time in nurturing myself, and focusing on what makes me happy in these anxious times. I invite you to take the time to rest your sweet heart too, take things softly, along with the dwindling candlelight of midwinter.
Until next time,