How to chill from the cold @Home


Margaret Crane & Barbara Ballinger

Margaret (Meg) Crane lived most of her life in St. Louis, was associate editor of the Jewish Light in the early ’70s and from 2001-2012, was senior writer for Jewish Federation. Two years ago, she moved to New York City to be closer to family living there. Barbara Ballinger, originally from New York, lived in St. Louis for 23 years and worked at the St. Louis Post Dispatch. She now lives in upstate New York. Follow their blog here.

It’s been a cold, snowy winter, and it’s not yet over. Yes, we’re counting down until spring. But we are thankful we each have a roof over our heads, can put on our warm underwear, socks, sweaters, turn up the heat and think of things to do. When stuck inside in winter because of the cold, ice, and snow, we view it as an opportune time to chill and do what we normally don’t have time to do.

We know we can veg out or be really productive and try new things or perfect those we’ve been doing. This is our winter advice blog to you if you also live in a cold-weather location. Take the initiative and learn how terrific you may feel after tackling a new recipe, soaking for an hour in a hot tub, cleaning and dusting your bookshelves, working on that novel, writing thank you notes or just sitting on a sofa and staring at a fire in the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows in hand.

Take advantage of this time to nest, rest, and warm up. We’ve got you covered with 20 ideas:

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Clean out closets and get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in at least three years

Or give your refrigerator a good purging and cleaning. Get rid of all the stale and outdated food hiding behind stuff in the freezer. Then, re-arrange what’s remaining–do clothes by season and color and get rid of all those shoes you never wear. Put any you will never wear in a pile to give to Goodwill or another worthy organization. Do the same with food, organize it so you can see what’s there and by category—condiments together, for example.

Binge read

Remember books? Some of us have been so  busy watching TV during the pandemic we’ve forgotten the joy of a book! Pick up some of the classics you read in school like Dickens, all six Jane Austin books, Faulkner, Shakespeare. Pull out the magazines you also haven’t had time to read from People to The New Yorker. You get the drill. Have any to give away? Many libraries are interested and have sales days to raise funds.

Binge TV

If you haven’t been addicted like us, watch all the episodes of a TV series you never had time to watch like Breaking Bad, The Affair, Billions, This is Us, and Designated Survivor. Barbara is now watching Grey’s Anatomy, which is 18 series long. One daughter warned her, “Mom, you’ll be 100 by the time you finish.” Now, that’s a goal. Make a big pot of popcorn and dig in.

Teach yourself how to knit and pearl

Go to YouTube and find a tutorial. That doesn’t appeal. How about mahjong, bridge, chess, or do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle! Now there’s Wordle!

Learn new social media skills

There are so many—Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. There are lots of resources on the Internet that give you suggestions how to do this.

Try an instrument

Start by reading music if you didn’t know how or fine-tune an old musical skill. Sit at the piano, if you have one, and bang out a tune. Pull out your high school flute or drums and bang and beat. You won’t be judged and how lucky you are to have the time dredge up an old talent or learn a new one.

Drag out old board games like Clue, Monopoly and Sorry

If you’re alone, try solitaire or other card games or computer word games. Margaret’s become skilled at crossword puzzles—the harder the better to get the brain going.

Change a room around

Move the furniture to different parts, remove some if it’s too crowded. Add something from another room. Shop around your house first for accessories rather than buying new. Consider the buynothingproject if there’s one in your neighborhood so you exchange rather than buy new. How sustainable!

Call a family member, old or new friend to catch up

Who cares who called each other last, calls are so much more appreciated than texts and emails. There’s a voice on the other end that adds warmth to your life!

Channel your inner Yotam Ottolenghi, Ina Garten or Julia Child and cook something new

Make a stew or soup that requires hours to simmer and perfect. Or how about cookies that need to chill in the refrigerator for several hours?


If you have exercise equipment, start to use it or use it more. Or do those stretching exercises and calisthenics the doctor recommended to strengthen your core. Go for 50, then 100 and finally 250 jumping jacks a day; great aerobic activity. Pull out your yoga mat and meditate, trying for daily inner calm. Do strength training by pulling up a video on YouTube.


Soak in a scented bubble bath and read or listen to opera or classical music while luxuriating. Some prefer a nice hot shower. Warm-up towels in your dryer.

Organize your photographs

If you’re like us, you have thousands from weddings, confirmations, Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, graduations and trips. Decide if they’ll go in albums or be digitized. Try to label them with the year and location for future reference.

Back up all your computer files or clean out your computer

Delete material you don’t need any longer or anything that might bring embarrassment.

Create your own Zumba or other exercise class with music

Find a tutorial online and dance away.

Plan a garden

Decide how you’ll landscape your yard or balcony when spring arrives. There are computer programs to help develop a master plan, so you carefully install come spring the right flowers for the right amount of sun and shade and water and the site itself. Research flowers, trees, plants, foliage that grow best in your climate. Come up with a schedule and mark the timeline on your calendar. If you live in an apartment, consider an indoor garden by your windowsill or invest in a few orchid plants. Or make a list of great gardens to visit; nature is therapeutic.

Set up a guest room or area for when friends or family come to stay, post Omicron variant

Stay a night in it so you know it’s nicely outfitted with good sheets, blanket, coverlet, pillows, table for putting down a glass, pitcher, book or glasses. Maybe, install a TV, it can be small. Make it also a den or home office if you have limited space.

Plan a trip with your family, friends, partner, or siblings for when the variant is gone, and the coast is clear

Look at tours and Airbnb and VBRO for places to stay if you don’t want to pay for a hotel. Set an agenda and fill in the blanks as you do research online. Where have you been dying to go? It doesn’t have to be far or expensive. If you’re a single, many organizations no longer charge extra and there are also great groups for women travelers. Or specialized groups will fill your desire to hike, paint, bicycle, fly fish. And there are many virtual travel options.

Start work on your taxes or a budget for the year

The point is to stop procrastinating and get something done you’ve thought you didn’t have time to do.

Count your blessings

Most of us forget to do so in the midst of all our hustle and bustle and worries. Make a list to be sure you remember them when you’re feeling down or up!

Finally, sit back and revel in the fact that you treated yourself to the luxury of relaxing or doing something new or productive. Or, you can always bundle up and take a walk outside on a crisp but sunny day. Isn’t it a delightful way to enjoy a cold day and winter?