Last week, Smalerie mentioned that we’d be doing a series on how to stick it to Old Man Winter and actually get some enjoyment out of a season that, here in New England anyway, can be best summed up as “grey.” Sometimes the outdoors is a frozen wasteland, other times it’s warm but muddy, but no matter the temperature and precipitation, winter can just seem a bit ho-hum. Once the holidays are over, there’s just a lot of staying indoors, dreaming of warmer, drier days. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. The depths of winter are scientifically* proven to be the best time for a theme party. Plus, planning a party fits in well with several of Smalerie’s blues-busting tips, including starting a project and having accountability. And hey, if you host, you don’t need to actually leave the house!
We’ve had a few posts on this subject before, but here are a few we haven’t yet shared that you might consider specifically for shaking the winter doldrums.
Granted, this particular theme appeals to a slightly morbid sense of humor – unsurprising, given that my husband, Mr. Menace, was responsible for dreaming it up. When the snow is thick on the ground and the air is frigid, what can be better than a reenactment of the Soviets surrounding the Germans at Stalingrad?
We were fortunate to have this party hosted at the home of our dear friends, who have a spectacular fire pit in their backyard, which allowed us to create a hard-core bonfire. If you are not so lucky, even a small fire pit will add the right amount of flare and sell the idea that you are huddling for warmth on the front. (We were also aided by the fact that this party took place in the February 2015 – winter where the Boston area saw about 8 feet of snow pile up on itself in rapid succession, followed by a deep freeze. Authentic!)
Cheap fur hats from the party store are also a must. Here the goal is less about authenticity, and more about a sense of fun and staying warm.
As for the most important part of any theme party, the food, this is your chance to put out an assortment of hard meats, cheese, and vodka, and call it good. At our hosts’ request, I also made piroshki, which are Russian buns filled with meat and onions.
Meat, cheese, vodka, and hats – a recipe for pulling anyone out of a slump.
The very next winter, our friends with the fire pit hosted another vaguely historically themed party – a Viking raid! This was a ton of fun to figure out costuming for – and a great excuse to break out the fur and cape from my Red Sonja costume from a Halloween party long past.
To host a good Viking party, consider offering mead, more of that wonderful meat and cheese, and an assortment of dried fish, if you’re feeling fancy. Horned helmets are not historically accurate, but if you change the theme a tad, you can host a 19th-century Romanticist opera revival party and the helmets are totally on brand.
Our latest party was a long time coming, and one of my favorites to date. For years, Tiny Doom has dreamed of hosting a “giant” party. The concept was that everything at the party would actually be extremely tiny – thus allowing the party participants to feel like giants. (Tiny Doom is, as her name suggests, pretty small herself, so getting to be big is a novelty.) For years, we discussed this party – what food we would serve, the tiny plates we could use, the props that we’d have – and we kept not hosting the actual party. Finally, after nearly half a decade, I decided to make it the theme of my annual New Year’s Eve gathering. 2017 was a pretty tough year all around, so I thought we could all use an excuse to feel bigger.
This party was heavily centered around two things – the food, and the table-scape. What’s great about this theme is that many appetizers are already small, bite-sized versions of regular food. You just have to make sure to play up that similarity – so cocktail weenies aren’t served in sauce, they’re lovingly encased in tiny buns. Sliders are regular burgers, a Cornish game hen is a whole roasted chicken, and so on.
Mr. Menace helped with the decor by getting two different sizes of figures – 1/6 scale GI Joes and 1/16 scale Star Wars figures – and strategically placing them around the food. The result was a sort of Lilliput-England-Brobdingnag vibe with the Star Wars guys as Lilliputians, the Joes as the humans, and us as the Brobdingnagians. It was pretty darn magical, and shockingly simple to pull off.
Ultimately, that simplicity makes this a perfect winter project – you don’t need to dress up or get too fussy with the decor to create a good time for your friends and help snap everyone out of a funk. After all, everyone needs to feel big sometimes.
Finally, it’s important to note that while we did this party on New Year’s Eve, it works on any random winter night equally well. How about you all – any other whimsical ways to punch Old Man Winter in the face?
*The science is extremely limited.
Wow, just wow. No matter how tough we New Englanders are, our insane winters always find a way to surprise and challenge us. This winter has already proven to be no exception. So, the question on my mind is: Is there a way to actually enjoy the winter as opposed to just surviving it?
In the interest of sharing more than just my methods, I reached out to my fellow ladies to get some of their ways of beating the winter blues. They should be following up during their weeks.
Disclaimer: I feel that it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge that both depression and seasonal depression are very real things. The methods we discuss here are meant to be fun and might be helpful to some, but are by no means designed to replace a doctor’s or therapist’s guidance.
Part 1: Smalerie
Last year I wrote an article about focusing on self-care when the weather gets you down. This still rings true, but when I really start to feel the winter blues, I actually require a bit more structure and frankly a bit of a push. So for my part of this article, I’m going to write a little about pushing these ideas a bit further.
- Goal Setting and New Skills:
Beyond just wacky projects, winter is a time when I actually benefit most from sitting down, creating a plan, and developing a new skill. Sometimes, frosting cookies to look like Muppets just isn’t enough. Instead, I need to stretch my brain, test myself, and strive for that sweet sweet feeling of accomplishment.
This winter, I’m taking a page from The Red Menace’s book and attempting some real bread making. There’s a lot to be said for the experience of kneading dough (meditative and stress reducing) and trust me when I say that baking fresh bread is great for the ego since it really impresses the friends and neighbors. When you think about how few ingredients you need to make bread, it’s really incredible. Not to mention how comforting a warm oven is on a frigid day. Seriously, if bread making interests you in the slightest – do. the. thing!
In fact, let us even point you to a great beginner’s recipe.
2. Join a thing and make yourself accountable:
During the winter, I can find it even harder than usual to follow up on things. It’s easy to tell a friend that you’re not up to heading out to brunch because it’s too cold or you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to change out of your flannel pj’s. When I start letting this happen, that’s when I know that I’m in trouble and can start to lose momentum. And then after a certain amount of time, the winter blues can really start to settle in for me.
I battle this by adding accountability to my activities. That’s right, I give myself someone or something to answer to. This can be as simple as buying tickets for things like movies in advance or even planning more events with timed tickets. I promise you, if I’m already in $20+ for that ticket, the weather is going to have to be pretty severe to stop me. Otherwise, I feel like I’m throwing money away.
Another method of accountability I use is leaning on the kindness of my friends and family. This might not work or even be necessary for everyone, but I will flat out ask people to push me and stop me from flaking out on things. Does this mean that people have shown up at my house unannounced and lured me out with promises of tater tots or even provided a bit of tough love via text message? Absolutely, but if it’s something I respond to, that’s exactly what I needed to battle the blues. And then once I’m out and about, I rarely regret going.
This week’s accountable activity is the Ladies’ first ever D&D campaign. We started last month and even if the weather is not great, I know that I must bravely fight my way to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the…I mean, it’s going to be a lot harder for my team to finish up without me. So I will be there, and will even bring snacks. Hey, it’s the right thing to do.
So yeah, take that Old Man Winter! We’re not going to take your guff lying down. We’re gonna fight back!
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