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Current Obsessions: Winter Warmth

by Maxwell Tielman

I’ll admit it — I usually hate the winter. And not in the way that people hate trivial inconveniences like waiting in line or getting one’s shoes wet. For me, the onset of winter usually elicits a reaction better suited to The End of Days than the changing of seasons. As soon as daylight saving time ends and the hours of daylight begin to dwindle, I find myself reverting to a sloth-like, almost catatonic state of hibernation. With temperatures too frigid for time spent outdoors and central heating making the indoors stuffy and dry, I while away the hours in front of the television, counting down the days until spring. Once the distractions of the holidays are over, it becomes even harder to muster enthusiasm about this dreary time of year.

This year, though, I’m trying to make things different. I’m not sure if it’s because winters seem to be getting shorter, but I’ve found myself actually embracing the winter season. There are two things that I think have helped me reach this watershed winter-loving moment in my life. First, I’m dressing for the weather. I know, shocking, right? But seriously, trading in a thin, under-insulated peacoat for a much warmer (albeit much uglier) down jacket has made so much difference. Scrapping my previously year-round Chuck Taylors for some weather-appropriate boots has helped, too. The one thing that has really helped me to brave the winter months, though, has been my apartment. Turning my apartment into a place I actually want to be in the winter — a winter wonderland palace, if you will — has made embracing the season that much easier. Rather than filling my head with images of far-off spring and summer months, I’ve surrounded myself with things that remind me how beautiful the current season can be. Things that evoke not the cold drudgery of winter but the season’s sleepy, subdued warmth — things like soft blankets, pine-scented candles, cozy socks and spiced teas. Now, I actually want it to be cold out, so I can curl up on my couch with one of my dogs, a warm drink and a knitting project. In the hope that you, too, will learn to embrace this much-maligned time of year, here are a few favorite things that have helped to make my winter more beautiful. — Max

1. Paine’s Balsam Fir Incense, $4.50. These charming little incense sticks are actually made from ground-up bits of fir trees. Perfect if you want to achieve that fireplace smell without the hassle of an actual fireplace.

2. Fishermen’s Wool Yarn by Lionbrand, $12.99. Winter seems to be the perfect season for sitting back with a big knitting project. I’ve been knitting a scarf with this Lionbrand’s “Oak Tweed” Fisherman’s Wool yarn. Lionbrand’s Fishermen’s wool line features combinations of completely un-dyed virgin wool treated with lanolin oil. I love the natural look and the fact that it’s not just one solid color.

3. Anna Heater, $79.99. The fireplace in my apartment is non-functional, so I’ve found that space heaters are the next best thing! Turn on one of these guys on a chilly Sunday morning and relax on your couch with a good book. I love the Anna heater, designed by Matti Walker, because it’s simple and blends into most interiors.

4. HeatTech Socks from Uniqlo, $9.90. Thick knit socks are my go-to footwear in the winter. The only downside is that sometimes the thickness of the knit doesn’t fit inside my shoes! These socks, developed by and sold at Uniqlo, are lightweight but pack the same warmth punch as thicker ones.

5. FoxRiver Fingerless Gloves, $10.99. I picked up a pair of these gloves from Dry Goods in Brooklyn, and I’m totally in love with them! The gloves are thick and warm and have a lovely heathered color. The lack of fingers also means I can use my phone or knit while wearing them!

6. Clive Candle by 2550 Degrees, $38. Grace got me this lovely candle for Christmas, and I think it’s a wonderful winter addition to my apartment. Scented with black tea, tobacco and moss, it’s what Grace jokingly refers to as a “man candle.” But its earthy, spicy scent works great for adding warmth to any home.

7. Tea and Soy Milk. A grad-school friend of mine first introduced me to the rather strange act of adding soy milk to tea. I was a little taken aback at first but was curious. Once I tried it, I immediately saw the appeal. Soy milk, which I’ve often found to be creamier than regular milk, adds a wonderful richness to everything from chamomile to English Breakfast. This winter, I’ve been mixing my soy milk with Yogi’s India Spice herbal tea and Bellocq’s Afghani Chai.

8. Hemp Hand Protector from The Body Shop, $20. Winter weather can really dry out my skin, so I always look for heavy-duty moisturizers this time of year. I’ve been a diehard advocate of this intensive cream from The Body Shop for ages. I don’t know what they put in it (unicorn tears, maybe?), but after a night of wearing this with some moisturizing gloves, dry and chapped hands are suddenly silky smooth.

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  • Thank you so much for posting the balsam fir incense. I’ve been looking and looking for conifer scented items and none have done the trick. I also love that everything in this round up is so affordable. Oh, and I swear by the Hemp Hand protector, it feels greasy for a few minutes, but then it wonderful and stays on a bit through hand washing.

  • I totally feel you! Living in Toronto, it can be really chilly in the winter (understatement), the wind chill makes it worse! Thanks for the finds! I used to use The Body Shop hand protector (love it!) and this reminds me I should get some more :) Keep warm!

  • So glad you mentioned 2550 Degrees. There candles are amazing! Each”hand poured personality” is lovely and complex yet sub 60 bucks.

  • You’re right Max, winter is the worst. I want one of those blue lights to stare at for SAD but I’m afraid people will make fun of me.

  • The balsam fir incense sound heavenly! Do you know of any place in Brooklyn/NYC that sells them? I’d rather just pick them up instead of waiting for them to be delivered. Thanks!

  • I absolutely love the hemp hand protector cream, my boyfriends mother got it for me this Christmas and I fell right in love with it :) I have the worst dry skin in the winter and it gets really itchy and ever since I started using this I have not been itchy once!

  • Soymilk and stevia in English Breakfast tea is my breakfast every morning! You are not alone!

  • Ahh! I love this post. And although I do not mind the weather, I can totally see where your point of view. I look forward to fall/winter fashion. It helps me get through those 6-7mths without feeling like the world is coming to an end. I am on my way to get some yarn to knit away!

  • Hi Max,
    I’m so envious of you and Dan, and can just imagine you on the couch with a book, while he’s trying to make sense of the kitchen :-) Just bought the Anna heater.

    For any non-americans, a list of distributors is available at http://stadlerform.ch/distribution. And for Europeans, it’s cheaper in France than in Scandinavia and Germany. With a price tag of 50 €, the French distributor even beats the US price.

  • I have a box of that incense that has been floating around in the basket under my coffee table for ages. It was a gift from my mother, I believe because she knows I’m crazy for balsalm. Anyhow when vacuuming yesterday it fell out and I put it up on top of the coffee table to try it out. I thought it was rather serendipitous to run across this blog this morning. I think I shall give it a try today. Maybe after I make my tea.
    Oh and I just learned that milk in tea is often called “white tea” I’ve always taken my tea with milk and a touch of sugar. Frankly when I hear “white tea” I think of actual white tea. You know, the variety that has extra antioxidants in it? I’ve always called it “milky tea.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s lovely.

  • Our fireplace & chimney are out of commission now. (Need lots of $$$ repairs.) My boyfriend is still mourning the loss. I’ve got to try that balsam fir incense!

  • oh here I thought I was the only person who sought out a “man candle” ! Tokyo Milk has one that is simply divine, I believe it’s their Paper & Cotton travel candle.

  • Love the whole knitting ,wool,fabric, sensation — I’m from Australia & will be in Austin,Texas & then NYC for a couple of weeks in early April .
    Is there ANY spectacular wool, knitting shops,groups etc that I can check out while I’m there in either city & then can pick up some fabulous Yankee winter stuff ..