How to find joy in the last few weeks of winter... even when you're totally over it.
Celestine Maddy couldn't find a magazine for young people who wanted to engage with nature—even if only in a tiny Brooklyn backyard. So she created her own quarterly publication, Wilder. Now, she and Editorial Director Abbye Churchill are sharing their ideas in the new book A Wilder Life (available here), in which they describe ways to make the great outdoors part of one's everyday—from making elderflower Champagne to cleaning your teakettle with vinegar.
We asked Maddy and Churchill for tips on how to make the most of winter. Here, their ideas for embracing the tail-end of the season—even if you've had enough of it already.
1. Make a winter tea: Ward off end-of-winter colds and allergies with make-at-home herbal teas, like lemon balm, marsh mallow and mullein. "If you touch a marsh mallow plant," Churchill explains, "the leaves are like touching rabbit's ears. When you drink it, it makes breathing easier and it's really good for chest congestion."
Try: Combine one part lemon balm, one part marsh mallow and one part mullein in a loose-leaf tea bag or infuser and place in a mug or teapot filled with boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for 8-10 minutes, then remove the teabag. Add lemon and honey to taste.
2. Get a jump on spring cleaning: Winter means a lot of time holed up indoors. To make your home a clean, fresh, cozy place to spend time, detox and disinfect. "Mix up batches of non-toxic household cleaners," Maddy and Churchill advise. "They can be used throughout the warmer months as well," they add, so you—and your space—will be set for spring.
Try: To make Maddy and Churchill's favorite general household disinfectant, combine 2 cups water, 1/4 cup Castille soap (like Dr. Bronner's), 30 drops of antiseptic tea tree essential oil and 30 drops of lavender essential oil in a clean spray bottle. Shake well.
3. Preserve winter produce: "I think cooking is a great way to escape yourself" and the cold, says Churchill. "Before winter ends, we stow away a few massive jars of homemade kimchi and sauerkraut from the last of the season's cabbage." Or, Maddy and Churchill suggest, experiment with winter root vegetables, like preserved-lemon pickled carrots.
Try: Make your own sauerkraut with Food & Wine's everything-you-need-to-know guide, available here.
4. Grow something: "Plants make us feel better," Maddy says. "They're not only cleaning the air, they're actually soothing to some degree"—especially in grey, dark winter or gloomy mud season. Maddy suggests starting small. "Get a little grow light and put it in a corner of your apartment, and grow a really beautiful flower. A blooming cactus would be nice."
Try: Buy your own small grow light, like this one, and a cactus or succulent from your local garden supply.
5. Make a calendula balm: "This balm is my go-to for cracked skin," Maddy says. "I winter garden, so I used it recently when I went to put some mulch down. And it was great. My hands still feel awesome." The process takes some time—including steeping calendula petals in olive oil for two weeks—but, Maddy says, it's worth it.
Try: For this recipe, you'll need 1 cup fresh or dried calendula petals, 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup shaved or grated beeswax, and 10 drops of essential oil, like lavender or citrus. You'll also need a large glass Mason jar, a stainless-steel pot, a fine-mesh sieve, cheesecloth, a glass mixing bowl, a double boiler, a whisk, a funnel, and several small, sterilized glass jars, preferably apothecary jars.
- Combine the calendula petals and the olive oil in the Mason jar and steep in direct sunlight for two weeks.
- After two weeks, transfer the mixture to the stainless-steel pot and simmer over low heat for two hours.
- Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth and set it over a glass mixing bowl. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through the cloth. Wring out the liquid from the cloth and set the bowl of oil extract aside.
- Place the wax in the double boiler over low heat. Watch it carefully and stir occasionally, being careful not to let it overheat, burn or bubble. Melting should take about five minutes.
- When the wax is completely melted, immediately whisk the oil into it. Continue whisking until smooth. (If chunks form, raise the heat and keep whisking.)
- When the mixture is completely smooth, stir in the essential oil.
- Using a funnel, transfer the mixture into clean, sterilized jars. Store in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
6. Venture out: When you just can't wait for spring any longer, Maddy recommends stargazing. She likes to use an inexpensive telescope, but no equipment is required. Heading out into the night with "some hot cocoa—or a little flask of whiskey—is pretty much the most amazing thing you could do for cabin fever," she says. "It turns out to be a real game-changer."
Calendula balm recipe/image and book cover from A Wilder Life (Artisan Books, © 2016).