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I have always felt the cold and dreaded Winter as a dark time of sore throats and sneezes! I have spent the last ten years – or more – searching for comforts that would make Winter a time to be enjoyed, rather than just endured. After extensive research – here is what I have found…
1. The magic, medicinal Hot Toddy
When she arrived in the Autumn, our Au Pair raised a suspicious eyebrow every time I had a mug of hot whisky before bed. However, when she complained of a sore throat, I packed her off for an early night with a Hot Toddy. She woke up feeling fine the next morning – and is is now a convert!
For me – in winter, this is a cure-all drink. I don’t make one unless I feel under the winter-weather, but I believe it has stopped me sliding into head-cold misery on many occasions!
Simple Hot Toddy Recipe
For me it is a very simple recipe – and I add more or less or each ingredient, depending on how rubbish I am feeling at the time:
- Fill half a mug with hot water
- Add the juice of half – to a whole – lemon
- Mix in a large desert spoon of runny honey (a pharmacist told me once that cough medicine is useless and honey is just as effective – so I add it liberally!)
- Add a generous sploosh (1-2 shots) of your whisky of choice.
- Wrap up in a blanket, with a good book, and take ten minutes for yourself to imbibe this magic potion.
- Get an early night.
My brother would probably insist that I add a caveat here around not wasting “the good stuff” on a hot toddy. Any old whisky will do. I am very lucky as he sends me a bottle of “good stuff” for Christmas each year. I really look forward to it and, most recently, I the wonderful Lagavulin in the photo! He worries about it not being sipped and savoured appropriately, as befits an aged single malt!
But – as, I believe, whisky is no more magical than when it is taken as part of a hot toddy, I’ll leave the choice of whisky to your discretion!
2. Wear thermals everyday
Let’s address a few preconceptions before we start…
No, thermals aren’t just for grannies. Yes, they have come a long way in the style stakes since your grandpa wore longjohns to bed. No, they won’t make you sweat (for the most part). Yes, keeping your throat and chest warm will definitely help if, like me, you are susceptible to the cold.
I bought my first thermals ten years ago – and realised that the beauty of them is that they feel warm and comforting against your skin, whereas cotton can get cold.
My warm capsule wardrobe
They now make up a large portion of my winter wardrobe. This is basically made up of:
- M&S Heatgen Plus Black Thermal Leggings I stop wearing jeans in winter as I find they get cold and stiff when the temperature drops – and don’t fit well until Ive worked off the extra Christmas pounds! These leggings are stretchy, higher waisted – and soft brushed cotton on the inside. I wear them constantly!
- M&S Heatgen Plus Black Long Sleeve Top or Turtle Neck
- M&S Long Sleeved Black Thermal Pointelle Vest which I always wear as a base layer. In my opinion, these are more comfortable than the sheer (Heatgen rather than Heatgen Plus) thermal t shirts that you can buy; I find those are more likely to absorb sweat and go cold, rather defeating the purpose.
- A Haramaki (Japanese: 腹巻, lit. “bellyband”). I discovered these nearly a decade ago and they become a staple every winter. I love them! It is an item of Japanese clothing that covers the stomach and hips. I find them warming, supportive and they are long enough to cover my bum to make the constant wearing of leggings slightly more stylish! I have one in orange and one in black – this is my favourite brand, available from Amazon. As these are sometimes unavailable though, I have also discovered Harry Duley’s Long Tube to be a good substitute – also available from Amazon.
- Knee length woolly socks (preferably ski socks!) with Uggs in the house – or boots outdoors.
- A woolly scarf or wrap. Keeping my throat and chest warm and protected are critical for me in the winter months.
- I also keep a good range of woolly gloves, thermal tights, thermal PJs and cosy cardies!
Now, I know it looks like I am working on commission from M&S – but I promise, I am not! I have recently converted my friend Lucy who also struggles with the cold in winter; she was initially dubious but now we have text conversations like this:
“How’re you getting on with your thermals today?”
“LOVE THEM! I’m never going back”
So, if you feel the cold – thermals are awesome. And the M&S Heatgen Plus are the cosiest I have found! Fortunately, our local M&S outlet have a good range at cheaper prices, so definitely worth looking there first if you have one nearby.
I also love thermals for Children
Thermals are also great for Children. My toddler wears M&S thermal Vests constantly throughout the winter, along with an M&S Thermal Long Sleeve T Shirt and often leggings as well. As she often refuses to wear a coat or jumper (she’s two) – this at least means I don’t have to worry about her catching cold in the two minute walk from the house to the car!
3. Taking Vitamins
I have taken multi-vitamin supplements for years – but didn’t start taking a dedicated Vitamin D supplement until a few years ago. Back then, I miscarried a couple of times in quick succession. I then discovered that research had shown a lack of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, can be a contributory factor in miscarriage. I will never know if I was Vitamin D deficient at the time, but as both miscarriages happened during winter, I also cannot rule it out.
Anyway – later, when under the care of a Consultant specialising in miscarriage, the benefits were reinforced and I was prescribed a high dose of Vitamin D. I took it throughout my pregnancies with both of my girls and I happened to notice that I didn’t seem to get as many colds.
Coincidence maybe – and pregnancy can do many weird and wonderful things to your body – so it may have been related to that. However – as my immune system was medically suppressed during my successful pregnancies – I had expected to catch more bugs than usual and was surprised when I didn’t. I have since read a great many articles about the benefits of Vitamin D in helping to keep you healthy in the Cold Season – and I believe it has certainly helped me.
Do note that Vitamin D is an oil soluble vitamin – so it is best to get it in oil capsule format. Obviously – check with your Dr before taking any new supplements, etc, etc…
4. Eat plenty of warming, healthy food
And also – stay well hydrated! I find it so important to stay warm and glow on the inside with healthy, nourishing food throughout the winter. My staple foods in winter are quick and easy one-pot recipes that you can put in a slow cooker. You can then help yourself – and feed your family – as and when you are hungry.
I have long been a fan of slow cookers. I did a lot of research and have had about three or four Tefal 8-in-1 multi/slowcookers over the years – which you can find at Amazon here. When my husband moved out I suggested that he take it with him (we were both huge fans, but as he was seriously downsizing his kitchen, it seemed only fair that he kept it); he readily agreed. When replacing it, I did some more research and took the opportunity to branch out to pressure cooking. I replaced it with a Pressure King Pro – which is both a pressure and slow cooker – also available at Amazon here. I love them both – especially as both let you fry onions etc in the bowl before cooking. A true one pot solution – and a kitchen must-have for me!
Simple healthy soup to make you glow
I usually have a basin of hot soup available. It takes hardly any time to make and I vary the recipe to use up any veggies that are getting past their best. I also add lentils for protein – and also melt in some grated cheddar cheese, inspired by the tradition for French Onion soup. Having tried it with other consommé style veggie soups though – I think it works really well, particularly if you are a cheese fan. However, if you are vegan or following Veganuary – you can always modify this by leaving out the cheese. It makes for a warming Vegan treat.
Below is the soup I made for lunch today – with some warm sourdough. There is plenty leftover and my girls will be having some for their dinner!
Ingredients and method
Chop one large onion and fry it in olive oil in your pan/slow cooker. Chop up any left over veggies you have available. For this soup I used two sticks of celery, one a large carrot, a cup full of peas and half a head of broccoli. Add the veggies to the pan and cover with 1 litre of vegetable bouillon/stock. I always add some tabasco: not enough to taste it, but just enough for a warm afterglow! Then quite a bit of freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
I put my Pressure King onto the ‘soup’ setting to cook (following the safety instructions) for ten minutes – and would have put it on to boil for 15-20 minutes on the steam setting in my Tefal 8-1 slow cooker. Alternatively, you can just put it in a saucepan on the hob, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Once cooked, I added a can of green lentils, but pre-cooked puy lentils work just as well. Previously I have made this soup with dried lentils – which I added to the pan/slow cooker from the start – and then just kept simmering until they were cooked. However, with the pressure cooker, the lentils pretty much disintegrate in the ten minutes, so I now cook them separately and add them at the end and warm them up. This is undoubtedly healthier and preserves nutrients in both the lentils and veggies! Finally, I grated plenty of cheddar cheese over the top!
Update: I’ve discovered this is also delicious a day later – especially when covered with grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. A good option to change up the flavours when having leftovers.
5. Embrace your Hygge
I am a huge advocate of Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah). If you haven’t heard of it yet, it is the Danish lifestyle trend about creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life. Only for me, it is less a trend and more a way of life. Turns out I was dedicated to Hygge before I even knew the word existed!
In winter, for me, this involves plenty of soft lighting whilst sitting on the sofa with piles of good books, hot chocolate and warm blankets – or enjoying a hot bath with a glass of wine when the children are asleep!
A little of what you fancy does you good – and I highly recommend prioritising doing plenty of whatever it is that makes you feel warm and cosy!
I wish you a warm and well winter! And if you have any other tips – please do get in touch. I would be delighted to hear from you as I am always on the look out for new ideas!
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